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Medical reasons for weight-loss surgery


Bariatric surgery can reduce the risk of disease in adults with severe obesity. Successful weight loss after surgery can help improve or prevent these health problems:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Sleep apnea
  • Arthritis
  • Some cancers

Surgery may be used for people who:

  • Have had severe obesity for 5 years or more
  • Have not responded to other weight-loss therapies, such as diet, exercise, or medicines

Body mass index (BMI) is commonly used to measure obesity. BMI measures your weight related to your height.

People who meet the following BMI measures may be most likely to benefit from weight loss surgery:

A BMI of 40 or greater. This most often means men are 100 pounds and women are 80 pounds over their ideal weight.

A BMI of 35 or greater plus a serious health problem related to obesity. These are called comorbidities, and may include:

  • Diabetes (high blood sugar)
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis (severe)
  • Sleep apnea (symptoms such as loud snoring, gasping, and holding breath, and daytime sleepiness)
  • Heart disease (personal or family history)

Your doctor must also consider medical problems that could make surgery more risky for you. These include:

  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Diseases of the stomach or small intestine
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Current smoking
  • Poorly controlled mental health problems
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Review Date: 1/30/2018

Reviewed By: John E. Meilahn, MD, Bariatric Surgery, Chestnut Hill Surgical Associates, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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