Weight-Loss Surgery FAQ

Who is a candidate for weight-loss surgery?
You may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery if:

  • You are 100 pounds above your ideal body weight
  • You have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40
  • You have a BMI between 35 to 39.9 with one or more other complications, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or obstructive sleep apnea
  • You’ve tried other medical weight-loss programs without success.

How safe is weight-loss surgery?
Though weight-loss surgery has a reputation for being risky, procedures have improved a lot over the years. It’s riskier to continue to live with the health consequences of morbid obesity, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. Bariatric surgery procedures, like sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass, shrink the size of your stomach and change your metabolism; they are proven to be safe and effective. As with all types of abdominal surgery, there is a chance of post-operative complications, which may include nausea, upset stomach, blood clots, gastric leak, or wound infection. Your surgeon will discuss possible complications and risks with you.

What’s the first step to receive weight-loss surgery?
Attend a free, no obligation information session to learn more about the weight-loss procedures that WVU Medicine offers. After the information session, we will review the health information you provided and schedule an appointment for you to meet with a surgeon.

What happens at my first appointment?
A weight-loss surgeon will review your medical history and have a detailed discussion with you about the different types of bariatric procedures and which approach may work best for you. Additional testing and/or evaluations with other medical specialists will be needed. Screening tests performed before surgery help us plan for your surgical care. You will also meet with a psychologist and dietitian before surgery.

From the time I am seen in the office, how long before I will have the surgery?
In general, after the initial consultation in the office, it can take anywhere from three to six months to have the surgery. Once we gather the information that we need, we send a letter to your insurance company for pre-approval for the procedure. Once obtained, you will then undergo an in-depth history and physical examination as well as some laboratory tests and x-rays. Once those are done, provided there are no additional or unexpected medical problems that would require treatment first, we schedule your operation.

Will my insurance cover weight-loss surgery?
Most, but not all, insurance companies cover bariatric surgery. Prior to attending the information session, all patients are asked to contact their insurance company to inquire about their specific benefits/policy. Many insurance companies require proof of your long-term attempts to lose weight through diet and exercise and/or behavioral techniques.

How long does the surgery take?
The average length of surgery for the bypass is about one hour. A lap band takes about 30 minutes to complete.

How long is the hospital stay for weight-loss surgery?
The average length of stay for a gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy is two nights. If you have a lap band placed, you will typically be in the hospital for one night.

When can I return to work after surgery?
In general, you can return to work within four to six weeks of having the operation.

How quickly does a person lose weight after surgery?
Patients generally lose 60 to 85 percent of their excess weight within the first year after surgery. After that, weight loss continues until about 18 months post-surgery when the patient usually achieves his/her goal weight. If you exercise, attend support groups and eat healthy foods, your weight loss from bariatric surgery can be significantly greater.

Can I eat whatever I want after weight-loss surgery?
Patients who undergo bariatric surgery must adopt permanent lifestyle changes for the procedure to remain effective. You’ll work with a nutritionist who can help you make necessary adjustments. Food intake after surgery is limited to one or two ounces per scheduled meal, so that the stomach can heal properly. Later, the amount of food you can eat increases. About six months after surgery, you’ll be able to eat between four to eight ounces of food per meal.

Can I ever lose too much weight?
It is very unlikely for patients to lose too much weight. Occasionally, patients can develop a stricture (outlet obstruction) within the first few weeks after surgery. This is easily correctable. Blood work to screen for vitamin deficiencies is conducted on a regular basis to ensure that patients are well nourished and their needs are being met.

Is it possible to regain the weight after surgery?
Most patients who receive bariatric surgery lose and keep off substantial weight, often 100 pounds or more. Patients generally lose 60 to 85 percent of their excess weight within the first year after surgery. If you exercise, attend WVU Medicine bariatric support groups, and eat healthy foods, your weight loss from bariatric surgery may be significantly greater. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimates that about 50 percent of bariatric surgery patients may regain only a small amount of weight (approximately five percent) two years or more following their surgery. Most patients in the WVU Metabolic and Weight-Loss Surgery program have lasting results with significant improvement in health, activity, and well-being.

Can I become pregnant after having the surgery?
Women of childbearing age should avoid pregnancy for one year after surgery because rapid weight loss and nutritional deficiencies can harm a developing fetus. If you should become pregnant, you will need to carefully watch your dietary program to make sure you and your baby are well nourished.