How many of us have dieted and dieted until the word leaves a bad taste in our mouths? If it were only that easy, to have that bad taste keep you from eating! But unfortunately for growing numbers of Americans, obesity is a very real concern. For those who have been on what seems a lifelong diet, weight loss surgery may be an option.
However, not everyone can benefit from one of the approved procedures such as a sleeve gastrectomy procedure and not everyone qualifies for what is considered to be major surgery. In other words, there are some people for whom weight loss surgery is not an option. So then, let’s look at what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines as the guidelines for determining whether or not someone is a candidate.
NIH Guidelines – ‘The Short List’
Most surgeons will provide what has become referred to as the NIH ‘Short List’ when their patients ask whether or not they are a candidate for weight loss surgery. These are just the very minimum requirements which must be met before you go on to further discussions with your doctor. Here is the short list:
- Sincere attempts to lose weight by non-surgical means have failed (diets)
- A BMI (Body Mass Index) of 40 or even higher which is categorized as extreme obesity
- A BMI indicating obesity (35 to 35.9) with serious health problems directly attributed to obesity
Health problems the NIH feels are directly linked to obesity would be such things as diabetes, high blood pressure and even such things as sleep apnea. Even so, as with all guidelines, there are also exceptions to the rule. For example, many doctors may consider you a candidate if your BMI is over 30 and you have health problems which can be directly related to being overweight.
Now for the Long List
Upon further discussion with you, your surgeon will want to know, in more detail, the circumstances surrounding your weight and the general state of your health. Some of the questions include such things as:
- Have you been overweight for at least five or more years?
- Do you drink alcoholic beverages to excess?
- Are you a smoker? (Smokers are disqualified immediately)
- Have your previous attempts at weight loss been successful but the weight came right back on?
- Will your family/general practitioner say you are medically healthy enough for major surgery?
- Do you have Prader-Willi Syndrome?
- Are you willing and ready for ongoing monitoring by a specialist?
- Do you understand that surgery is not the end of the road and you will need to make some very real changes in your lifestyle?
There are more on the Long List but you get the idea. Weight loss surgery may be an option for you but it is still major surgery. Don’t even consider talking to your doctor unless you really have tried dieting unsuccessfully.
Also, these are just the basic requirements and if you are considering bariatric weight loss surgery like the above mentioned sleeve gastrectomy procedure, your chosen surgeon will want a lot more detail that just what NIH says are the minimum required guidelines.
Please note that bariatric weight loss surgery should be considered, for lack of a better word, a last ditch effort. If all else fails and you are still obese, weight loss surgery may be an option. A reputable and well qualified bariatric surgeon will be the first to tell you this, so be honest with yourself before asking about surgery.