Choosing a Surgeon
One of the most difficult choices you will have to make as a prospective bariatric surgery patient is that of which surgeon is right for you. While it may seem like a straightforward choice, it should be noted that your interaction with the surgeon and staff will continue for months and years after surgery. As a result, it is imperative that you choose a surgeon not only for their skill, but also for their bariatric team and support staff. Following are some helpful tips when choosing a surgeon:
- Surgeon Competence: Check a surgeon’s credentials, including where they attended medical school and their residency and internship experience. Online reviews are an excellent source of information, but should be taken with a grain of salt, as they do not reflect the experience of every patient. Here are some Questions to Ask Your Bariatric Surgeon.
- Recommendations: Poll friends and family who have undergone or explored weight loss surgery in the past. Also, speak to your primary physician who may have a relationship or know of a bariatric surgeon. References can give you insight into a practice that you may not gather during your visit.
- Attend a Seminar, Group Meeting or Support Group (or two or three): Going to a seminar or support meeting gives you a firsthand look into a practice. Generally, the surgeon will make a presentation and take questions afterwards. This is a great time to learn more about the practice. To help you, have a look at our “Questions to Ask at a Seminar” page. At the same seminar, you might meet some former patients that will give you first-hand insight into the practice. Many doctors will offer small group visits or an online seminar (instead of an in-person seminar) to present the options and recommendations.
- Location: It may be cheaper to undergo surgery in a neighboring state or even in another country, however you must consider two important issues. First, will your insurance cover an out-of-state procedure or any complications that may arise from that procedure? Second, how will the surgeon perform follow-up? You will likely need attention every few weeks for the first year. Are you willing to travel to receive that care? Remember, there are not too many surgeons that will follow up on another surgeon’s procedure, unless it is an emergency. Consider a local surgeon.
- Affiliations: Most surgeons are affiliated with major national medical and bariatric societies. Assessing their level of participation and the qualification criteria of each organization, can help in your choice. Also, look at the hospitals with which a surgeon is affiliated. Much of the medical attention you receive immediately after surgery will take place in the hospital. Ensure you are comfortable with their facilities and staff.
- Evaluate the Aftercare Program: While most of the focus is on the surgeon, a practice’s aftercare program is important to your success. Dietitians, psychologists, and coordinators will all play a part in your long-term weight loss journey. You will be interacting with them on a regular basis for years to come. Learn more about how to evaluate a bariatric aftercare program.
- In Network Surgeon: It is important to ask whether the surgeon will perform your procedure at a facility that is in your insurance network. Will the surgeon use other providers (assistants and anesthesiologists) that are in-network providers?
Just remember that there is no “best” surgeon for everyone. Each patient will have a best surgeon for them and their unique circumstance. Choose carefully. Do not be afraid to ask questions. And while the points above are not exhaustive, they should help you take the first step in evaluating a practice and their surgical team.