Myths about bariatric surgery
By: Dr. Atul N.C. Peters
According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), more than 1 in 5 people (23% of men and 24% of women) were found to have a BMI of 25 or more. Higher BMI or body mass index increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, heart and respiratory issues.
WHO identifies a person as overweight when their BMI is greater than or equal to 25 and obese when BMI is greater or equal to 30. Depending upon BMI and medical condition, treatment of obesity may involve non-surgical or surgical methods.
Non-surgical treatment involves diet and lifestyle changes for people who are overweight not obese. To treat obesity (BMI >30) or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes with BMI >27.5 and associated health issues bariatric/metabolic surgery has proven to be successful.
However, there are many myths about bariatric surgery due to which people worry about undergoing this surgery. Let’s burst these myths and understand the facts:
Bariatric surgery involves removal of fat from body
Fat is not removed during this surgery; rather, changes are made in stomach and/or small intestine to produce metabolic effect for control of obesity and co-morbidities.
Patients feel weak after surgery
No, if you comply with the suggested diet, meet protein demands and take your nutritional supplements regularly, you wouldn’t feel any weakness rather you would feel more energetic.
People are unable to eat after surgery
No, you would be able to eat everything, though, a gradual approach is followed to support the recovery. For the first 2 weeks you will be on a liquid diet then on soft foods for another 2 weeks and then normal diet. Due to reduction in stomach size you will be eating small and frequent meals, however, would feel equally satisfied as you were with bigger portions.
I may develop serious health issues after surgery.
No, rather bariatric surgery helps in preventing/resolving NCDs.
After surgery no need to follow any lifestyle change.
Surgery is not a magical wand; rather a tool to help you reach your health goals, good compliance is vital to maintain healthy weight in long-term.
People regain weight in long term.
Most patients maintain >50% excess weight loss in long term, which by definition is successful weight loss, however, 30 – 40% of patients may regain around 5% of weight, especially those who continue eating calorie-dense, low protein foods.
Post-surgery bed rest is required.
No, in fact after few hours of surgery your surgeon will require you to get up and move around, take several walks the next day and thereafter. On discharge, you will be able to pursue your normal routine.
Surgery would leave a big scar.
At our “center of excellence” we perform ‘laparoscopic/robotic surgery’ through small incisions. Post-surgery, the incisions are usually sealed with surgical glue and after a few weeks are scarcely visible.
Follow-up is not important.
Although, surgery is a few minutes job, but, to attain your health targets and for long-term maintenance regular follow-up is extremely important.
(The author is Director – Bariatric, Minimal Access & General Surgery, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket)