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How much do I have to weigh to be considered for weight loss surgery?

July 12th, 2013 By Jeremy Korman

How much do I need to weigh in order to be considered for surgery?

It would be so clear to just say “You have to weigh this many pounds in order to have weight-loss surgery.” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple. Traditionally, when patients have no health problems related to weight, the minimum BMI they have to display to be considered for a bariatric procedure is 40. For a 5′ 5″ person, this means a body weight of 240 pounds. But this can vary.

First, it’s rare for an obese patient to experience no consequences. Obesity places a large amount of strain on the cardiovascular system, making the heart work harder to keep the body supplied with blood and reducing the health of the vessels that carry the blood. Extra weight also causes huge amounts of stress on the bones and joints, and that stress is multiplied when we cause impact on the skeleton (for example, by walking and running). Extra fat can cause respiratory issues, as well, including sleep apnea. The most common obesity-linked issue, and one that’s exploded in the Western world in recent years, is Type 2 diabetes, which in advanced cases can cause health problems including nerve and kidney damage, skin conditions, and problems with the feet that may even require amputation.

In our experience, a vast majority of significantly obese patients have health concerns related to obesity. In this case, the minimum BMI recommendation is normally 35. In practice, this means nearly everyone with a BMI of 35 becomes a candidate.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, which is the preeminent professional group for the weight-loss surgery community, notes that even patients with BMI as low as 30, or with “Class I obesity,” can benefit from weight-loss surgery if they have obesity-linked health problems and they’ve tried and failed to lose weight with traditional methods. For some procedures, and in some instances, surgery can be performed on lower-BMI obese patients.

The BMI isn’t a direct indicator of body-fat levels. It was originally meant to measure the general or average obesity levels of a population. It can be misleading for particularly muscular or athletic individuals, or those whose frames are very different from the average. Some people call BMI unreliable because of all this. But even though it doesn’t give precise data about body composition, BMI is a good general guideline for most patients, and doctors continue to use it.

So if your BMI has you concerned, it’s a good idea to listen. Talk with your doctor about your weight, and if you’re headed down the road to obesity complications, we urge you to act. Even in non-morbidly obese patients, weight loss surgery can be a very effective and safe way to control weight and limit health problems. Call us at (800) 491-1977 to find out if it can help you.