Questions and Answers on Bariatric Surgery

For many people who are obese, changes in diet and exercise simply don’t provide the solutions they need to lose weight and/or address a wide range of associated health problems. Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery has become a popular—and often successful—option in recent years. In fact, it has been shown to be the most effective way to lose a significant amount of weight and improve health conditions related to obesity. However, many candidates aren’t fully aware of the extent of time, individual will, and follow-through that is also required. In other words, there is far more involved in this procedure in order to achieve optimal results.

The following are frequently asked questions surrounding bariatric surgery that can help guide you in your decision on whether or not to pursue this path. Regardless of how you choose to proceed, your decision should always be made in consultation with your doctor.

Do I need to meet certain qualifications in order to have the procedure?
Yes. In order to be considered for weight-loss surgery, a number of basic requirements must be met:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher. Here’s how to calculate your BMI.
  • At least several attempts at losing weight through non-surgical ways, such as major changes in diet and eating habits, and increased physical exercise.
  • If your BMI is greater than 35 but less than 40 you will need to demonstrate the presence of a health problem caused or worsened by excessive weight—Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are common conditions.

How will bariatric surgery improve my overall health?
In addition to the issues above, weight-loss surgery has proven to be effective in reducing or eliminating problems caused by:

In addition to these benefits, patients who have undergone weight-loss surgery also enjoy increased energy and mobility, more fulfilling time and relationships with friends and family, greater self-confidence, as well as fewer absences from work due to illness.

What types of weight-loss surgery procedures is right for me?
There are several types of procedures that offer varying levels of invasiveness, permanence, and suitability for different individuals. These include:

  • Sleeve Gastrectomy—removes a portion of the stomach, resulting in decreased appetite and cravings, and excellent weight loss—generally irreversible
  • Roux en-y Gastric Bypass—a pouch is created out of a small section of the stomach and attached directly to the small intestine—also leads to feelings of fullness after intake of small amounts of food. Also associated with excellent weight loss—generally irreversible
  • Intragastric Balloon—a non-surgical procedure where a saline-filled balloon is placed in the stomach and slows the passage of food, resulting in feelings of fullness sooner during eating and longer afterwards—the balloon is typically removed and/or replaced after 6 months.

As with any decision pertaining to any part of your weight-loss surgery, the type of procedure must be made with the advisement and guidance of your physician and care team.

Will my insurance cover this kind of procedure?
Most insurance companies provide coverage for bariatric surgery. However, it is important to consult with your insurance carrier to ensure that you are pre-approved for this procedure with your individual plan.

How long will the effects of the surgery last?
It varies greatly with each patient. Some reach their goal weight within 2 years; others need longer. However, the most important factor is the level of maintenance and diligence you put into changing your lifestyle and eating habits after the surgery. Many foods, like bread, pasta, sweets, and other carbohydrate and sugar-heavy items, must be eliminated or severely restricted. And some form of regular exercise will need to become a part of your daily routine. The more you commit to a sustainably healthy lifestyle and diet, the sooner you’ll be able to realize the life-changing benefits you want.

Shaneeta Johnson

Shaneeta Johnson

Specializes in Bariatric Surgery, General/Minimally Invasive Surgery, Surgery

Dr. Shaneeta M. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Surgery, Director of the Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery Program, and Residency Associate Program Director at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. A native of Nassau, Bahamas, Dr. Johnson graduated from St. Andrews High School as the Alpha Kappa Alpha Female Valedictorian of the Bahamas. She attended The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Maryland and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. While matriculated there, she was awarded the Johns Hopkins University Multicultural Award for Personal and Academic Excellence in addition to other honors. Dr. Johnson received her medical degree from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. She completed her internship and surgical residency in General Surgery at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC. While at Howard Hospital she was awarded by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, District of Columbia for her research and also received the Chairman’s Surgical Award.

With an interest in Minimally Invasive Surgery, Dr. Johnson then pursued and completed a fellowship in Advanced Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland Ohio. She holds board certifications in both General Surgery and Obesity Medicine. Dr. Johnson is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Fellow of the International College of Surgeons, and Fellow of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons.

Learn more about Dr. Johnson.