Learn the path to weight loss surgery

Weight loss surgery is a life-changing procedure and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. So before you become too involved or make an appointment to investigate the options, it’s important to make sure that surgery is the right choice for you.

To have or not to have surgery - that’s the question. To help find the answers, those interested in weight loss surgery with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center and Foothills Weight Loss Specialists attend a free informational seminar before making the final decision. Seminars are held regularly at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month and at 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month in Maryville. Additional seminars are held regularly in Knoxville and throughout the East Tennessee region.

Once it’s determined that weight loss surgery is the right choice, those interested should check with the insurance company to verify if it’s a covered procedure. Most insurance companies require that patients have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more or a BMI of 35 and 39 if there’s at least one major medical problem that is aggravated by obesity. This includes respiratory problems such as sleep apnea; diabetes; and hypertension, among other things. The office staff at the Weight Management Center can help determine what is - or isn’t - covered by individual providers.

After verifying coverage, it’s time to make an appointment, where the patient and physician discuss which of the three procedures offered is best for the patient’s weight loss goals and health history. Once the decision has been made to proceed with surgery, all past physicians send medical records in, and the patient submits at least six months of data tracking weight and attempts at weight loss (most insurance companies require this).

During this period, patients see a psychologist, have pre-operative labs and possibly a sleep study -- if they meet the requirement to do so. Once everything is in and ready to submit, patients then participate in a series of education classes focusing on diet and exercise, body image and addictions. The diet and exercise class is two-hour class split so that patients spend one hour with a registered dietitian and one hour with an exercise physiologist. Some insurance companies also require individual consults with the registered dietitian. Additionally, patients participate in a body image and addictions class.

With a surgery date circled on the calendar, the last stop is a nutrition and nursing class that prepares for post-operative care needs. Then, it’s on to surgery. Post-operatively, patients are followed frequently for the first year and then on an annual basis. After surgery, patients also are required to attend at least one support group, although the key to long-term success is to attend support groups monthly.

The goal is for each patient to be successful, and the staff and physicians are dedicated to each and every patient in the pre- and post-operative phases.

For more information about weight loss surgery options or to learn about upcoming seminar dates, call 865-977-4673.

Dana Bradley, herself a former bariatric surgery patient, is a registered nurse and the bariatric coordinator at the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center. She also is a certified bariatric nurse according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

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