General Questions

Surgery-Specific Questions

Pre-Operation Questions

Post-Operation Questions

Dietary Questions

General Questions

What is “Bariatrics”?

Bariatrics is the field of medicine offering treatment for people who are overweight. A complete bariatric treatment program includes nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes. Medications, such as appetite suppressants, and weight loss surgery may also be recommended. The field of bariatric medicine includes research into the causes, prevention and treatment of being overweight.

Do I qualify for weight loss surgery?

Candidates for surgery are generally at least 100 pounds over their ideal body weight (BMI of 40 or higher). People who have a BMI of 35 to 40 may also be eligible if they have serious health problems (such as type 2 diabetes) related to their obesity. Insurance plans may have other requirements for coverage. Click here to do a simple calculation of your BMI.

For what age range does Healthy Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery offer weight loss surgery?

We currently provide weight loss surgery for qualified individuals between the ages of 18 and 70.

What is BMI?

The BMI, or body mass index, is simply a height to weight ratio for measuring whether or not you have a weight illness. A normal BMI ranges from 20 to 25. Candidates for weight loss surgery have a BMI of 35 or more and medical problems associated with being overweight. If you want to know your BMI, click here for a calculator. 

What is laparoscopic surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery is done through small incisions into the abdomen. The abdomen is then inflated with a small amount of gas to create space for the surgeon to see. The surgeon uses a small video camera and special long instruments to perform the operation.

With an "open" surgery, the surgeon makes a large incision and operates directly on the stomach and bowel. The exact same operation can be done by the surgeon using either the laparoscope or open technique. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include fewer complications, less pain and a shorter hospital stay.

All of our bariatric surgeons are trained in laparoscopic surgery. 

Why aren’t all weight loss surgeries done laparoscopically?

The first laparoscopic weight loss surgery was done in 1994. Surgeons must have years of experience in laparoscopic techniques or recent fellowship training to develop the skill needed to perform the surgery safely. Not all bariatric surgeons have the specialized training necessary to perform laparoscopic weight loss surgery. All bariatric surgeons with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health are trained in laparoscopic techniques.

What are the risks of weight loss surgery?

The risks of weight loss surgery are similar to other surgical procedures. There are also early and late complications specific to each procedure. The risks associated with each procedure will be discussed with you before your surgery.

Will my insurance cover this surgery?

Insurance coverage for weight loss surgery depends on your health insurance policy. You can call your human resources representative at work or your insurance company directly to find out the details of your coverage, including what weight loss procedures are covered. Some insurance plans specifically exclude weight loss surgery.

If I don’t have insurance coverage, can I pay for everything myself? How much do the surgeries cost?

Some patients chose to pay out-of-pocket for their weight loss surgery. Make sure you have exhausted all of your insurance options or consider changing health plans before choosing to pay for the surgery yourself. At Lancaster General Health, an insurance specialist can discuss the costs of surgery with you and help you with your decision.

Are there any activity restrictions after gastric bypass? After sleeve gastrectomy?

The activity restriction is the same for both procedures. You may not lift anything weighing over 30 pounds for two weeks. Patients usually start walking, biking, swimming and becoming more active around two weeks after surgery.

When can I return to work after gastric bypass surgery? After sleeve gastrectomy?

The time to return to work is the same for either procedure. Depending on the requirements of their job, most patients could actually return to work a few days after surgery. We recommend you stay off work for at least 10 to 14 days after surgery. If indicated, we may allow you to remain home for up to 6 weeks after your surgical procedure.

How much weight can I expect to lose after gastric bypass? After sleeve gastrectomy?

A gastric bypass patient typically loses an average of 75% of their excess body weight. A sleeve gastrectomy patient typically loses an average of 65% of their excess body weight. Most patients will achieve this level of weight loss within the first year.

Is it safe to lose weight that quickly after surgery?

The rate of weight loss after gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy is safe. There is no evidence to suggest slower weight loss is any gentler or easier on the body.

How will I stop losing weight?

After weight loss surgery, weight loss slows down for a variety of reasons. How well you stick with the recommended lifestyle changes is a big factor in how quickly you stop losing weight. Also, your body will adapt to the decreased food intake by becoming more efficient and adjusting its energy needs.

Can my stomach get bigger after sleeve gastrectomy surgery?

Yes, it is possible. The stomach can stretch after surgery. Stretching occurs when meal sizes are larger than recommended or you fail to stop eating when you feel full.

Do people regain weight after weight loss surgery?

Most patients will experience a rebound weight gain of 5 to 10 percent after weight-loss surgery. This usually occurs when patients do not stick with the recommended lifestyle changes or do not follow-up with their weight-loss team after surgery.

Patients can potentially regain all the weight they lost after surgery if they do not change their lifestyle. In addition, all medical problems related to being overweight can return.  Long-term follow-up with your surgeon and weight-loss team are crucial for successful weight loss and a healthier life.

I was told I can’t take anti-inflammatory medicine after weight loss surgery. I have severe arthritis and need medicine to get around. What will I take if I can’t take my medication?

Only with the gastric bypass procedure are you limited in taking anti-inflammatory medicine. The sleeve gastrectomy procedure allows patients to take any medications including anti-inflammatory drugs. For gastric bypass patients with severe arthritis, Tylenol-based products are recommended. Mild narcotic pain relievers may also be prescribed. Even a modest weight loss may reduce or eliminate the need for medication to treat joint pain.

I hate to exercise. Will that affect my weight loss after surgery?

Most definitely! In order to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you eat. Becoming more active will widen the gap between energy eaten and energy burned. The wider the gap, the greater the weight loss. As you lose weight, physical activity becomes easier and the results become more apparent.

What is sleep apnea? How do I know if I have it?

People who have sleep apnea stop breathing during sleep. One or more breaths are missed before the person starts to breathe again. This cycle repeats itself many times during sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition, and many patients do not realize they have it. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be a symptom. About 70% of patients who qualify for weight loss surgery have some form of sleep apnea. Testing is performed before surgery to determine if you have sleep apnea and how severe it is. If you have sleep apnea, treatment is started before surgery.

Can a gastric bypass be reversed? Adjustable gastric band? Sleeve gastrectomy?

Removal of the adjustable gastric band would take about an hour. Reversal of a gastric bypass would take several hours. The sleeve gastrectomy cannot be reversed.

Surgery-Specific Questions

What weight loss surgery procedures does Healthy Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery offer?

We primarily perform Roux en Y gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy surgeries. We also provide weight loss surgery revisions using a laparoscopic approach. Your options for weight loss surgery will be discussed during an individual consultation with the surgeon.

How do I decide which surgery is best for me?

Choosing which weight loss surgery option is best for you is often a personal decision. Your surgeon will discuss your eating habits and health issues and help you make this decision.

How soon can my surgery be done?

After your consultation with the surgeon, it usually takes 12 weeks to get ready for the surgery. Some insurance companies require up to 6 months of program participation before surgery is approved. Our team of patient advocates will help you navigate your insurance company requirements.

How long is the surgery?

The length of the surgery depends on several factors. On average, laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery takes about 75 to 90 minutes. Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery takes about 30-45 minutes.

Will I need to receive blood with this surgery?

Less than 5% of patients have bleeding problems with weight loss surgery. Most of the bleeding associated with surgery stops on its own and does not require a blood transfusion. Less than 1% of weight loss surgery patients receive a blood transfusion.

I have type 2 diabetes. Which operation is best for me?

Gastric bypass is generally the recommended procedure for patients with diabetes. However, our team has also observed excellent results with the sleeve gastrectomy procedure. Some surgery patients who have diabetes are able to leave the hospital medication-free. Most patients with type 2 diabetes will experience a very positive effect on the disease as they lose weight. 

Pre-Operation Questions

Why do I need to stop smoking before this surgery?

Smoking is a destructive personal habit. Smokers who have general anesthesia have a higher rate of lung-related complications after surgery. Also, your risk of developing stomach ulcers is ten times higher if you smoke after surgery. Weight loss surgery is an elective procedure offered to improve your health. All unhealthy habits must be avoided after surgery.

It is our policy for smokers to stop smoking completely six weeks before surgery. Lancaster General Health has different options to help you quit smoking before your surgery and for maintenance therapy after surgery.

I was told I couldn’t have laparoscopic surgery, and I would have to have an “open” procedure. Is that true?

More than 99% of patients are able to have their surgeries performed laparoscopically even if they have had previous abdominal surgeries.

My religious beliefs do not allow me to receive any blood products. Will you still be able to operate on me?

We respect the religious beliefs of all our patients. We often use alternatives to blood transfusion therapy. Any anemia, or low blood count, is corrected before your surgery.

My primary care doctor doesn’t believe in weight loss surgery and will not give me a referral letter. What can I do?

Some doctors are fearful of weight loss surgery and how it was done 20 to 40 years ago. Your doctor may have cared for a patient who had a bad experience with weight loss surgery. Patients now have access to experienced weight loss surgery teams that provide the support they need to be successful. These teams, which include experts in nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle change, have worked together to bring weight loss surgery out of the “Dark Ages”.

Urge your doctor to contact us for information about our program. If your doctor is still not willing to refer you for surgery, you may need to obtain a second opinion or consider changing physicians.

Will I need to have my gallbladder removed at surgery? Or later?

About 7% of patients who have weight loss surgery will eventually develop problems with their gallbladder and need to have it removed. The gallbladder can be removed laparoscopically. Removing the gallbladder at the time of your weight loss surgery is generally not necessary. Please feel free to discuss this with your surgeon at your appointment.

What happens to the bypassed stomach after a Roux en Y gastric bypass?

No part of the stomach is removed during gastric bypass surgery. The portion of the stomach separated from the pouch still works normally, but it no longer receives food. As a result, stomach acid production declines. The bypassed portion of the stomach does not “shrivel up” or “die off” because the blood supply is unchanged. The stomach stays in the same position and drains digestive juices into the small intestine as it did before surgery.

Can my family stay with me after the surgery?

Yes. We typically limit each patient to one family member or close friend.

Post-Operation Questions

How long will I need to be in the hospital for gastric bypass surgery? For sleeve gastrectomy?

Barring any complications, patients who have either type of laparoscopic surgery are in the hospital for two days.

Will someone need to take care of me after my surgery?

After surgery, you will be able to take care of yourself just as you did before your surgery. 

How often do I need to follow-up after surgery?

Patients are seen two weeks and four weeks after surgery. They will also follow-up at four, eight, and 12 months. After the first year, patients are seen every other year. Sticking to a follow-up plan is important for long-term success!

Who will be adjusting my medications after surgery?

When you are discharged from the hospital, we provide you with a list of medications you are to take after surgery. We will send your medication list to your primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor will manage your medications while you lose weight. Do not stop or “self-adjust” medications without discussing your thoughts and concerns with your doctor first.

What do I tell other healthcare providers if I need emergency care or surgery in the future?

Because weight loss surgery has become more common, most emergency care providers are familiar with caring for post-operative weight loss surgery patients. It is always best for you to let your healthcare providers know about your weight loss surgery. Some patients choose to wear a medical alert bracelet after surgery.

Since I live far away from the hospital, what should I do if I need emergency care?

What to do in case of emergency is something you should consider before coming here for surgery. If you live several hours away from our main hospital, it may be wise for you to stay in the area until after your two week follow-up appointment. After the early post-operative period, emergencies can usually be handled or stabilized by a hospital close to your home.

Will I have more bowel movements after gastric bypass surgery?

Once on regular food, 90% of bariatric surgery patients have no change in bowel movements. Some patients notice an improvement in bowel habits after surgery.

What is dumping?

Dumping can occur after gastric bypass surgery. It is the body’s reaction to eating foods with a high fat or sugar content. Dumping usually occurs 30 to 60 minutes after eating poor food choices and can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, heart pounding, headache, dizziness and diarrhea. A dumping episode can last 4 to 24 hours but rarely requires emergency care. Dumping can be a good tool for teaching patients to avoid unhealthy foods.

Will I lose all of my hair? What can I do to prevent hair loss?

People rarely lose all of their hair. Hair thinning can occur, but can be minimized by reaching your protein goal each and every day. The hair thinning process usually starts around 3 months after surgery and stops by the 7th month. After 7 months, the hair starts to regrow.

Hormonal factors also influence hair loss. If you had hair loss with pregnancy, you will probably have hair loss after weight loss surgery. Having weight loss surgery during menopause may also impact the amount of hair a woman loses. Taking a daily multivitamin and adding zinc and biotin supplements is recommended.

Will my weight loss surgery affect future pregnancies?

Weight loss surgery does not increase the chance of birth defects with future pregnancies. In fact, fertility increases for women after successful weight loss surgery. We recommend women who have had gastric bypass surgery wait at least one year before becoming pregnant.

Proper diet and nutritional supplements are necessary after weight loss surgery and when planning any pregnancy. It is best to plan any future pregnancies with your gynecologist and bariatric surgeon.

How will this surgery affect me when I am older?

Neither surgery has any negative impact on your body’s natural aging process. In fact, losing weight at an earlier age helps improve your quality of life as you age.

Will I need skin reduction surgery?

About 15% of patients choose to have skin reduction surgery after weight loss has stopped. We recommend waiting two years after your original surgery before considering this option.

Dietary Questions

Will I ever be able to eat anything sweet after gastric bypass surgery?

An all or nothing attitude toward sweets is not necessary after surgery. It is certainly possible to eat a bite or two of a sweet treat after surgery. However, testing the waters to find your sugar limit is not recommended. The fear of dumping is a powerful motivator and should not be tested.

Can I drink alcohol after weight loss surgery?

You should wait at least 6 months after surgery to begin consuming alcohol. Some studies suggest there is a lower tolerance to alcohol after gastric bypass surgery. Alcohol can also have a high calorie count. After surgery, you need to be careful of soft or liquid calories that can easily slow your weight loss or cause weight gain. Another concern about alcohol after weight loss surgery is the possibility of changing an addiction to food into an addiction to alcohol.

Do I have to give up caffeinated beverages forever?

Caffeine can be an appetite stimulant and a diuretic. Until you can consume at least 64 ounces of fluid a day, it is best not to consume products with caffeine.

Will I need vitamin supplements for the rest of my life?

Yes, nutritional supplements are recommended after weight-loss surgery. Vitamin supplements help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Routine blood work is also necessary to monitor your nutritional status, which is another reason long term follow-up is so important for good health.

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