Keys to success after bariatric surgery
Bariatric surgeons are often given too much credit for the remarkable successes that patients demonstrate after bariatric surgery. While surgeons love to watch the incredible transformation of bariatric patients, many may be surprised to hear that the surgery portion of the overall experience is just a small part of the journey. A large percentage of the credit for the achievements goes to the patients themselves. John D. Scott, MD, shared some keys to bariatric surgery success.
Preparation for surgery sets the tone for the procedure and recovery. Dr. Scott offered seven things you can do before bariatric surgery to maximize your results and decrease risk.
- Recognize the tool’s purpose. Bariatric surgery is a tool for making a lifestyle change. The tool allows patients to change their approach to many different aspects of their day-to-day lives. Much like a power tool or a chainsaw, if one doesn’t read the owner’s manual or perform routine maintenance, the tool may not work when it’s needed. In the same fashion, weight loss and improvement in health conditions may not be as dramatic if patients are unaware of or do not comply with the dietary and behavioral changes that enhance the surgery.
- Recognize that change is coming. Surgery alone will not change a patient’s diet and exercise habits. Overall results are much improved if patients start dietary and behavioral modification prior to surgery.
- Take control of the process. Bariatric surgery alters the signals the brain interprets regarding hunger and motivation. This allows the patient to be free of many of the urges and hormonal signals that are so prevalent in obese patients.
- Focus on the goals. Surgery success is not just measured by weight loss or better fitting clothes, but by overall health improvement, reduction in needed medications, a more active lifestyle, less social distress and a longer life.
- Preparation is key. Patients should alter their behavior well in advance of surgery. Bariatric surgery is a complex surgical procedure that is best performed on patients who are medically prepared for the rigors of the surgery and recovery. The most important thing a patient can do to prepare for surgery is to stop smoking. Bariatric surgery and tobacco use are incompatible. Patients should also make dietary changes well in advance of surgery, as preoperative weight loss may make surgery easier.
- Be active. Patients who start an exercise plan prior to surgery, even a simple walking plan, have much better results than patients who wait until surgery to set aside time for exercise. Exercise improves cardiac function, decreases peri-operative stress and enhances immune function prior to surgery. Restarting an established routine after surgery is much easier than starting an exercise plan from scratch.
- Don’t hide from your program. The surgeons, nurses, dietitians and counselors are trained to recognize post-operative problems, work through dietary and nutritional concerns and help prevent complications. Patients who have an established follow-up routine with their program have fewer nutritional deficiencies, improved weight loss and are better prepared to recognize warning signs of potential complications.
If patients follow these helpful tips to prepare for bariatric surgery, they will enhance their overall experience and maximize the opportunity for improvement.
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