8 Tips for Choosing a Weight Loss Surgeon

Medically Reviewed By Brian McDonough, MD
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
  • Women doctor standing by weight scale
    A Personal Decision
    Weight loss surgeons specialize in performing bariatric surgery, medical terminology for weight loss surgery. When you decide to see a bariatric surgeon, you may feel relief and anxiety all at once. Most likely, you’ve already tried medical weight loss plans that haven’t worked for you. A bariatric surgeon will help you make life-changing, and even life-saving, decisions. Here are 8 important tips to help you find the best surgeon for you.
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    1. Get Referrals
    Get started with the referral list of weight loss surgeons from your primary care doctor or other specialist. Family, friends, and other healthcare professionals are also good resources to ask for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow your list, call each surgeon’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the surgeon.
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    2. Research the Bariatric Surgeon’s Credentials
    Board certification is an important factor to consider when you are choosing a surgeon. Certification tells you that the doctor has the training, skills and experience needed to provide surgical care. For bariatric surgery, look for a provider who is board certified in general surgery and a Fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (FASMBS). This designation means the surgeon completes at least 25 ASMBS-approved bariatric surgeries a year (as the primary surgeon) and the ASMBS-accredited facility where the surgeon performs surgery submits data on bariatric surgery outcomes (results) as required. Also confirm that the surgeon has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the bariatric surgeon’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
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    3. Consider the Bariatric Surgeon’s Experience
    When it comes to complex bariatric procedures, experience matters. The more experience a surgeon has performing a particular bariatric surgery, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many times the surgeon has performed the specific procedure you need. (FASMBS surgeons must perform at least 25 bariatric surgeries a year to remain in good standing, as well as report on the patient outcomes of these surgeries.) Also, find out about complication rates -- complications the surgeon has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
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    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important to feel comfortable with your surgeon’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. However, your own gender is also an important consideration. Ask the surgeon about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your procedure and your gender. Doctors are becoming more aware of gender-specific psychological and physical differences in treating weight loss surgery patients. As a result, you may find a weight loss surgery program that specializes in treating your gender.
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    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Consider the quality of care at the hospital where the surgeon can treat patients. Hospital quality matters to you because patients who have surgery at hospitals with 5-star performance in weight loss surgery have fewer complications. Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. A convenient location makes it easier to manage frequent follow-up visits after your weight loss surgery. Ideally, choose a surgeon who practices at a hospital accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program, which holds bariatric centers to very high standards. 
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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a bariatric surgeon with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways you can understand? Find a surgeon who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how they run their medical practice. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor and how much time the doctor spends with their patients. These are especially important factors for weight loss surgery centers because the preoperative and postoperative care can involve several visits and interactions with different team members in addition to the surgeon.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a bariatric surgeon who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a surgeon from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a Weight Loss Surgeon
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Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Last Review Date: 2014 Jul 30
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.