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Choosing a Weight Loss Surgeon: Beyond the Numbers

You may already know that you should think about the quantifiable aspects: think numbers. You want to know how much weight that surgeon’s patients tend to lose, what kind of complication rates does the surgeon see and which types of complications do they tend to be, and how much experience the surgeon has in terms of lifetime surgeries and current number of surgeries they performed per month.

But what about the rest? What about “bedside manner” and all the things it includes? Finding a surgeon with great statistics may not be enough to guarantee that you have found the best surgeon for yourself. There are some less definable characteristics to think about.

Explains well

Your surgeon should be able to explain everything you want to know in terms you can understand. If you are the type of person who needs to question every detail, you need a surgeon who is willing to take the time to explain everything you want to know at the level of detail you are requesting. Don’t accept “because I said so” as an answer.

Even if you are not the type to ask many questions, you still need to be able to communicate with your surgeon. You need to understand basics such as your surgery options, what to expect in the hospital, and your pre-op and post-op instructions. Keep looking for another surgeon if the one you’re considering now cannot explain well. It is the surgeon’s responsibility to do so; you are not “dumb” for not understanding.

Treats You with Respect

Basic respect can make your entire experience more pleasant, safer, and more successful. “Respect” is complicated, but it can include some of the following.

  • Treating you as an individual rather than giving you cookie cutter treatment.
  • Taking your concerns seriously.
  • Giving you information to help you make decisions, rather than forcing decisions on you.
  • Discusses risks and expected weight loss seriously with you, and does not make unrealistic promises about surgery safety and impossibly fast weight loss.

Is Accessible

There may be times when you have a question or concern that cannot wait until your next appointment. Is your surgeon accessible? If not, does your surgeon have someone else you can call at any time? Find out what happens if you need to contact your surgeon, or a nurse or the nutritionist, during or after business hours. You want to be sure you are in good hands at all times.

Focuses on the Future

You’ve heard over and over that weight loss surgery gives you a tool, and that the rest is up to you. You’ve also heard that this is a change for life, not a quick fix for a few months or a year. Your surgeon should be giving you that same message.

Stay clear of any surgeon who does not discuss the future with you. Be wary if the surgeon seems to believe that his surgery will be enough to get you to the weight you want. As much as you may want to believe it, it is not true. You will need to eat right and work hard for years to get your weight under control, and you need a surgeon who will support you every step of the way.

Gives You Confidence

No matter what happens in your life, which decisions you make about surgery, and what triumphs and challenges your weight loss surgery journey includes, things will be better if you feel positively about them. Your surgeon can help by giving you confidence that:

  • He or She will take care of you no matter what.
  • He or She believes in you.
  • You are making the right decisions for yourself.

This can be difficult to judge, but see how you feel after walking out of the surgeon’s office. Do you feel excited and hopeful? Or do you feel overwhelmed and daunted? A few nerves are normal, but you should also feel that you can do this. If not, find a surgeon who does let you feel self-confident.

Fantastic surgeons are out there, and you deserve one, but you may need to put in some effort to find one. After checking out the statistics, you may need to depend on your gut to help you make the right decision. You can go into surgery with more confidence when your surgeon is communicative, respectful, and positive.

Alex, I am in NY, westchester county, and need a surgeon for my 14 year daughter. She has done the program at Morgan Stanley children's hospital but does not have sleep apnea or co morbidities for insurance to pay and they charge $40,000. I only have $12,000, could you recommend anyone? I'm willing to go to other states.

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