Monday, September 3, 2007

Just to be thinner?

I read a statement like "It's sad what some put themselves (or their kids) through, in order to be thin." Of course, referring to going through bariatric surgeries like Lap Band, gastric bypass, etc. This statement shows a major misconception as to what bariatric surgery is all about. The name "weight loss surgery" is correct in that bariatric surgery is designed to lead to weight loss. That is true. But the above statement implies that the entire reason for the weight loss is for a "thin" image. Here comes the misunderstanding. Although many patients like being thinner, which is a bonus result of the surgery, the real reason to have the surgery is for health purposes. Morbid obesity leads to three categories of major problems: (1) Life expectancy may be shortened (2) Co-morbidities may get worse, and certainly would not be cured (please, see note below) (3) Quality of life may deteriorate. Those are the real reasons why someone should consider bariatric surgery. Patients do not come and say, "I need weight loss surgery because I want to be thinner." They say things like "I want to get my [type 2] diabetes cured", "I want to be able to play with the kids", "I have many in my family who died from heart disease, and I am still young and would like to prevent that", "my orthopedic surgeon wanted me to lose weight before he replaces my bad knees", "I have sleep apnea, and my doctor said if I lose weight, I may be able to come off the CPAP machine." You've got the picture. So, my counterstatement to the first line here would be "It's sad what some put themselves (or their kids) through, by not controlling their weight and allowing an unhealthy life style to continue." And, as an aside, yes, weight loss will also lead to being thinner. Remember, bariatric surgery is not for everyone who has a problem with weight or obesity. In well-selected patients, the risk of bariatric surgery is, statistically, less than the risk of morbid obesity itself. It is an option if non-surgical weight loss fails to achieve a sustained healthy weight.

Note: "Co-morbidities" is the term given to describe medical problems that are either caused by, or made worse by, obesity.