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News • 25 October 2023

Everything You Need to Know about Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery, also known as weight-loss surgery, is a medical procedure performed to help individuals with severe obesity achieve significant and sustainable weight loss and improve their health.

Bariatric surgery involves altering the digestive system to restrict food intake, promote feelings of fullness, and reduce the absorption of nutrients and is typically recommended for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or a BMI above 35 for those with obesity-related health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic pain. 

Bariatric surgery involves several steps, including consultation with a bariatric surgeon, physical examination, nutritional and psychosocial assessments, surgery, post-operative care with a multidisciplinary team of health professionals, behaviour change and long-term follow-up.  

Common types of bariatric surgery  

Gastric bypass surgery involves the creation of a small pouch at the top of the stomach which is connected to the small intestine. Food then bypasses most of the stomach, promoting feelings of fullness with less food intake. 

Gastric sleeve surgery includes the removal of a large section of the stomach. The remainder of the stomach is stapled to form a small tube for food to pass through. This reduces the size of your stomach from approximately 2.5 litres to 200mls, significantly decreasing the amount of food it can hold. 

Adjustable gastric band, or lap band surgery, involves a band being placed around the top of the stomach, slowing the entry of food into the stomach and promoting feelings of fullness with less food intake. This band can be adjusted by adding or removing fluid within the band. 

What are the risks of bariatric surgery? 

Before deciding whether weight loss surgery is right for you, it’s important to consider the risks. Bariatric surgery comes with surgical risks, with 10-20% of patients requiring follow up surgery to correct complications that arise, such as gastric leaks and hernias. However, bariatric surgery also comes with lifetime risks. Some of these include: 

Nutrient deficiency – Nutritional disorders are significantly more common in those who undergo bariatric surgery due to lower food intake and a reduced capacity to absorb essential nutrients. Without adequate nutrients, the body is unable to function properly, which has further implications on health, including brain and immune health. 

Bone and muscle loss – Rapid weight loss, such as that typically experienced after bariatric surgery, causes rapid bone and muscle loss without adequate nutrition and exercise. Over time this may cause osteoporosis and low muscle mass, increasing the likelihood of falls, fractures, and significantly reduced quality of life. 

Is bariatric surgery right for you? 

For some people, bariatric surgery is an effective tool used to decrease weight and improve health. It may reduce the risk of premature death from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer by approximately 40%. However, weight loss surgery is not a quick fix, and still requires effort and behaviour change to maintain weight loss and improve health. Failure to maintain weight loss occurs in approximately 50% of people who undergo bariatric surgery, highlighting the importance of long-term behaviour change. Also, weight loss without lifestyle change can cause further chronic conditions and reduced quality of life. Because of this, strict dietary changes, lifelong supplementation, and a structured exercise program are essential in maintaining overall health following bariatric surgery. 

How can TUH help you? 

Bariatric surgery comes with significant risk, and as behaviour change is essential in improving health both with and without bariatric surgery, you may like to consider all your options before undergoing weight loss surgery. TUH sets itself apart from other health insurance companies, by having our members health at heart, and taking a proactive and preventative approach to health. Our health support service team, made up of qualified health professionals, support eligible members with their health and wellness goals. We also provide a suite of health management programs, fully funded for eligible members, which provide a collaborative approach to further support your physical and mental health goals.  

However, here at TUH we recognise that weight loss is complex and does not come as a one-size fits all approach. With adequate support and lifestyle changes, bariatric surgery is a viable option for some individuals struggling with severe obesity and its associated health conditions. Therefore, TUH can also support you if you choose to ahead with bariatric surgery.  

What is the cost of Bariatric Surgery  

When considering bariatric surgery, it's essential to consider the various expenses that may arise. Weight loss surgery cost can vary depending on various factors, including the type of procedure, the surgeon, the geographical location, and the hospital. In general, bariatric surgery cost can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. The cost not only includes the surgical procedure itself but also additional expenses such as hospital stay, anaesthesia, laboratory tests, medications, consultations with allied health practitioners, and follow-up appointments.  

Private Hospital Cover  

Private hospital cover can help alleviate the financial burden associated with bariatric surgery cost. These insurance plans are designed to meet the specific needs of individuals seeking bariatric surgery and can help cover the costs of the surgical procedure, hospital stay, anaesthesia and other associated expenses. In addition to this, some health insurance can offer various options for ancillary cover, which can be used towards allied health appointments.  

It is important to carefully consider the financial aspects and potential expenses involved in the procedure. Private hospital cover can help individuals navigate the costs and ensure access to high-quality care.  All private hospital cover has specific terms and conditions, waiting periods, and exclusions, so it's crucial to review the policy details and understand the coverage provided.  By understanding the process, costs, and insurance options for bariatric surgery, individuals can make informed decisions and embark on their weight-loss journey with confidence.  

25 October 2023