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How Do I Choose a Bariatric Surgeon and Center?
It’s often said that the best way to lose weight is through diet and exercise. That is true for many, but not all.
For some individuals, bariatric surgery may be a viable option, but they might not understand what this surgery involves. In addition, choosing a doctor and a hospital can be confusing and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric surgery is sometimes called weight loss surgery. More precisely, it is metabolic surgery. Through this procedure, experts in this field can address the health effects of being overweight – the metabolic consequences such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and other illnesses. These conditions not only lead to poor quality of life, but to increased hospital admissions and even early death.
Bariatric surgery is a way to address those conditions when excess weight is the cause.
Who is a candidate for bariatric surgery?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) determined the criteria for bariatric surgery to be for individuals who are 100 pounds or more overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more; or 80 pounds overweight with a BMI of 35 or more and with medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and other associated conditions. Candidates must be at least 16 years of age, and candidates may be considered into their late 60s depending on their overall health status.
At Lifespan, we are the only program in the region that is qualified to perform this procedure on adolescents, beginning at age 16.
Choosing a hospital
When choosing a hospital for bariatric surgery, there are several things to consider.
- Experience is, of course, a critical factor. At Lifespan, we have offered weight loss treatment options including surgery for more than 30 years, with a long history of high quality results.
- Breadth of program. Bariatric surgery is not just a one-time surgery. There are many facets to it. At Lifespan, we offer the Center for Bariatric Surgery, which is a comprehensive center. That means that we treat obesity as a chronic disease that requires not just an operation, but supportive care and coaching with nutritionists, behavioral therapists, medical specialists, and support groups. We differ from other programs because we offer all that under one roof.
- Ongoing care and support. What happens after your surgery can be just as impactful to your success reaching your goals and on your overall health. Because we understand obesity is a chronic disease, we are committed to providing our patients support and care throughout their lives, no matter how many years after surgery.
- Patient education. The success of bariatric surgery lies not only in the skills and experience of the medical team, but also in the education program available for its patients. Both pre-surgical education and strong post-surgical coaching and support should be available. Here at the Center for Bariatric Surgery, we have robust education and support programs led by trained medical professionals, with no out-of-pocket expenses.
- Credentials count. The American Society of Bariatric Surgery and the American College of Surgeons Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery established an accreditation process to recognize programs that meet their high standards. They have also established the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP). Not only has Lifespan’s Center for Bariatric Surgery been twice recognized for its program, it is also one of only a handful of sites chosen nationally by the American Society of Bariatric Surgery to analyze patient-reported outcomes. Patient satisfaction surveys indicate our patients consistently report high levels of satisfaction with our program. Our rankings place us in the top one percent of all programs nationwide whose patients say they would recommend the hospital to family and friends.
Choosing your surgeon
Like choosing a hospital, there are many considerations for selecting a physician as well.
- Training and experience. When selecting a physician, it is always in the patient’s best interest to opt for a surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery, and one who participates in the MBSAQIP. This means they ensure that the rigorous standards for patient safety and quality of care are met. Cumulatively, our team has 80 years of experience. All our surgeons have received additional fellowship training in bariatric surgery and are recognized as leading authorities in this area of surgery and scientific research. We are also one of the biggest programs in the region, with an anticipated 450 cases this year, with excellent quality outcomes.
- Covered by insurance. When choosing a physician, you want to be sure to select a specialist from your health insurance’s network of physicians.
- Team effort. When you choose a physician, you want to know if they work with a team of doctors. It’s important to have enough surgeons in a group who work hand in hand, so they are available day and night for emergencies or to answer questions and address concerns. Programs that do not have a large enough team of specialized bariatric surgeons to provide this coverage often rely on other surgeons and practitioners who are not experts in bariatric surgery for emergency lifesaving care. At our Center for Bariatric Surgery, there is always a bariatric surgeon available to answer questions, just a phone call away. That is part of our team commitment to take care of you.
- Meeting your surgeon. A critical part of any surgery is the rapport between a surgeon and a patient. We believe it is important for you to meet your surgeon at the beginning of your journey. We want you to feel comfortable with your surgeon. Our patients meet the surgeon from the first visit. Our surgeons take a personal approach with all our bariatric surgery patients. This helps our team get to know you well even before your surgery, and provide care for you whenever you need it.
The role of nurses
Nurses play a critical role in the care of patients. Bariatric surgery patients are no exception. Here at The Miriam Hospital, we have nurses specifically assigned to the care of bariatric surgery patients in a dedicated area of the hospital. In addition, the nurses at The Miriam Hospital have received Magnet designation five times. This is the highest nursing credential available and we are one of only four hospitals in the world to have earned this recognition five times.
The team approach
In addition to our specially trained physicians and our exceptional nurses, we have a dedicated team of dieticians working side by side with the surgeon. Patients also meet our behavioral therapist and medical specialists throughout the process. These critical team members will see you before surgery, while you’re in the hospital, and after your surgery. Our team follows you for the entire journey. That way, you know the team and they know you.
Is bariatric surgery safe?
Over the past 20 years, not only have bariatric surgery techniques improved, but so too have surgeon experience and quality improvement programs. The safety record of this operation has been stellar, with mortality rates as low as 0.13 percent, which is comparable to gallbladder surgery.
Here at our Center for Bariatric Surgery, our team is always with you -- in the surgeon’s office, the operating room, through recovery, and throughout your life.
Learn more about our program and how we can help you.
Siva Vithiananthan, MD
Dr. Siva Vithiananthan is a surgeon and the chief of minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at the Center for Bariatric Surgery at Lifespan, located on The Miriam Hospital campus. He specializes in laparoscopic surgical procedures, both bariatric and non-bariatric, while his research focuses on weight loss advanced surgical techniques and their metabolic and physiological effects. He is also National Surveyor for the MBSAQIP program. He and his colleagues at the Center for Bariatric Surgery are all members of the faculty at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.