Intro to Weight Loss Surgery: Costs & Risks

Deciding whether or not to undergo weight loss surgery is a serious decision. If you are very overweight (over 100 pounds for men and over 80 pounds for women) and a healthy diet and exercise hasn’t helped, then surgery may be the best option for you. Weight loss surgery, in essence, limits the amount of food your body can take in.

Once you make the decision to have the surgery, you will then have to decide which procedure is appropriate for you. This all depends on your goals, your surgeon’s preference, your current health condition, and if your insurance will cover it.

Cost is a huge factor. These surgeries have the potential to change your life for the better, but this is usually at the expense of your wallet. The good news is that many health insurers are willing to cover all or part of the costs if you meet certain pre-specified criteria.

Differentiating the Two Types of Weight Loss Surgery

Before we get into the specific procedures, let’s distinguish the types of weight loss surgery:

  1. Restrictive: less invasive surgery that physically restricts the size of the stomach and slows down digestion
  2. Malabsorptive/Restrictive: more invasive surgery that works by changing how you intake food, often by physically removing certain parts of your digestive tract

The Risks and Costs of Various Weight Loss Procedures

  1. Adjustable Gastric Banding
    Risks: include vomiting and complications with the band, such as slipping out of place, becoming too loose, or leaking
    Cost: Varies but anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000, depending on where you live
  2. Sleeve Gastrectomy
    Risks: irreversible and since it’s relatively new, doctors are unsure about long-term risks
    Cost: Average cost is upward of $10,000
  3. Gastric Bypass Surgery (Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass)
    Risks: patients suffer serious nutritional deficiencies which can lead to osteoporosis or anemia; blood clots, infections, gallstones and hernias are also common
    Cost: Ranges from $18,000 to $35,000, depending on where you live
  4. Biliopancreatic Diversion
    Risks: hernias and in extreme cases, death
    Cost: Ranges from $20,000 to $30,000

Weight loss surgery can certainly be life changing, but it won’t solve all your problems. For any surgery to really make a difference, you need to stay dedicated, long after the procedure, to continue making permanent changes in terms of how you eat, exercise, and live.

Source cited: Your Bariatric Surgery Guide - Lap-Band Surgery

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