Bariatric, or weight loss surgery, is indicated for patients who are morbidly obese and already have tried diets, exercise, and other non-surgical means of losing weight. The surgery helps patients eat less through a variety of mechanisms that differ with the type of procedure done. Although the definition varies depending on the insurance company, in general a person is a candidate for weight loss surgery if he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40. Patients with a BMI of at least 35 may qualify if they have additional conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, or degenerative joint disease. Candidates for bariatric surgery must meet certain goals and requirements before surgery can be approved, and typically it requires a serious commitment to substantial lifestyle changes.
The three most common types of weight loss surgery are gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding. A gastric bypass is performed by creating a small pouch out of the stomach and routing the gastrointestinal tract to this pouch, so that food empties into the pouch and bypasses the remainder of the stomach and first portion of the intestine, greatly limiting the amount of time the food spends in the digestive tract. A sleeve gastrectomy is performed by removing about 80% of the stomach, leaving an area approximately the size of a banana and leading to a diminished appetite. Gastric banding involves placing an inflatable belt around the top of the stomach to reduce the flow of food into the stomach.
Obesity is a medical problem that can have wide-ranging mental and physical effects on a person. If you or a loved one has struggled with obesity for some time and has tried unsuccessfully to combine a healthy diet with exercise to lose weight, UAB Medicine is the place to turn. Led by Richard Stahl, MD, and Jayleen Grams, MD, the bariatric surgery program at UAB Medicine has been performing weight-loss procedures for more than 30 years, and it is the first American College of Surgeons Level 1 Bariatric Surgery Center in Alabama. This history, combined with our standing as a respected academic medical center, puts UAB Medicine at the forefront of weight-loss surgery.
Complicated pre- and post-operative bariatric patients frequently are referred here, which gives us a unique perspective on weight-loss surgery, its risks, and its limitations. We do not view surgery as a quick fix for weight loss, nor should it be a patient’s first consideration when contemplating weight-loss methods. A multidisciplinary approach involving surgery, varied medical specialists, nutrition, psychology, and physical therapy is used in the evaluation and management of a patient’s obesity. An active and ongoing weight-loss support group meets regularly and is open to all patients, whether they have had surgery or are considering it.
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Meet the bariatric surgery team and learn more about the types of operations, goals, risks, overall process and if you may be a candidate.
Bariatric Surgey Program Overview
Discover how three patients used weight loss surgery to overcome their struggle with obesity and take back their lives
How Obesity Surgery Helps People Reclaim Their Lives
Led by Richard Stahl, MD, and Jayleen Grams, MD, the bariatric surgery program at UAB Medicine has been performing weight-loss procedures for more than 30 years, and it is the first American College of Surgeons Level 1 Bariatric Surgery Center in Alabama. This history, combined with our standing as a respected academic medical center, puts UAB Medicine at the forefront of weight-loss surgery.
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- Bariatric Surgery Frequently Asked Questions
- Bariatric Surgery Private Pay Fees
- Bariatric Surgery Eligibility
- Weigh at least 100 pounds more than your ideal body weight
- Have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 40
- Have a BMI of 35 to 40 with obesity-related medical conditions, like diabetes that requires medication, severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, uncontrolled hypertension, or severe osteoarthritis.
- You have tried to lose weight with diet and exercise within the last year, but have been unsuccessful.
- You have been morbidly obese for at least three years.
- You are healthy and young enough to undergo a major elective operation.
- You understand the surgical risks, benefits, and limitations of surgery, and how your life may change after surgery.
- Significant heart disease
- Active peptic ulcer disease
- Drug abuse
- Hepatic cirrhosis with impaired liver function
- Serious psychiatric disability
- Very poor overall health
- You have been obese for three years or more.
- You have participated in a weight loss program under the supervision of your primary care physician for six consecutive months within the last year.
Bariatric Surgery FAQ
Considering bariatric surgery can raise many questions. At UAB, we want you to have all the answers you are looking for—and to feel completely confident in your weight loss surgery decision. If you have a question that is not addressed here, we invite you to ask us.
Pre and post-op care questions: Christina Lundeen, RN - 205.975.3000 firstname.lastname@example.org
Eligibility, insurance, scheduling: Marci Howard - 205.996.5182 email@example.com
Eligibility, support group, general: Nakia McMullen - 205.996.6984 firstname.lastname@example.org
What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric—or weight loss—surgery, involves altering your digestive process in order to restrict food intake and alter calorie absorption. The goal of bariatric surgery is to induce weight loss and improve overall health.
How do I know if I am a candidate for bariatric surgery?
There are several important factors, such as your body mass index (BMI), your overall health, and previous weight loss attempts, among others. See the full list of requirements on our eligibility page .
Is bariatric surgery covered by insurance?
Not all insurers provide coverage for weight loss surgery, so it is important that you contact your provider to find out. Learn more about insurance and bariatric surgery our Private Pay Fees page under More Information.
What if insurance will not cover the cost of surgery?
Visit our patient resources page to review estimated private pay fees.
What are the risks of bariatric surgery?
Like any major surgery, there are risks associated with bariatric surgery. During your consultation, your surgeon will discuss your individual risk.
How much weight will I lose—and how long will it take to lose it?
Each patient will have a different experience depending on the surgery option they choose, their body, and there is no guarantee of success. Patients who continually diet and exercise have the best results. With that in mind:
Gastric bypass patients lose an average of 60 – 80% of their excess weight.
Gastric banding patients lose an average of 25 – 40% of their excess weight.
Sleeve gastrectomy patients lose an average of 50 – 70% of their excess weight.
How long do I need to stay in the hospital for surgery?
The typical hospital stay is 1 – 2 nights for gastric bypass, 1 night or less for gastric banding, and 1 -2 nights for sleeve gastrectomy.
How long will I need to be out of work?
Most patients are able to return to work within 2 weeks of surgery, but the amount of time required varies with the individual and the type of work they do.
How will my diet change after surgery?
Diet progression varies with each operation, but generally follows the pattern in the table below.
I am interested in seeing if bariatric surgery is right for me. What should I do next?
If you have read our eligibility page and feel that you are a candidate for weight loss surgery, read our get help page for next steps.
Diet Progression Table
|Time After Surgery||Gastric Bypass||Gastric Banding||Sleeve Gastrectomy|
|Day of surgery||Nothing||Liquids||Nothing|
|2nd day - 2 weeks||Pureed||Pureed||Pureed|
|2-4 Weeks||Soft (fork tender)||Soft (fork tender)||Soft (fork tender)|
|4 Weeks and Beyond||Regular||Regular||Regular|
Private Pay Fees
In the event that your insurance does not approve you to have the operation or does not pay for these procedures:
Initial Consultation: Approximately $461.00 (Cost incurred for Pre-op Assessment Appointment prior to surgery not included)
Blood Work: $600-$1200
Psychological Evaluation: Depends on each individual's insurance coverage. Patient must call insurance company to determine fees.
Nutritional Evaluation: $100
Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding, Sleeve Gastrectomy, or Gastric Bypass Fees: $21,300
Bariatric Surgery Eligibility
Do You Qualify for Bariatric Surgery?
Thank you for exploring weight loss surgery options at UAB. There are several factors to consider in determining if bariatric surgery is right for you. If the following characteristics describe you, you may be a candidate:
You are at least 18 years old.
You do NOT have the following conditions:
Insurance companies differ in their coverage of weight loss surgery and the requirements you must meet. We recommend calling your insurance provider to determine what your coverage entails. Some providers may require documentation from your primary care physician showing that:
If your insurance does not cover bariatric surgery, private pay options exist.