Back to Health News & Stories

Frequently Asked Questions About Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery

How do I know if I'm a candidate for bariatric surgery? Is it covered by my insurance? How much weight will I lose? Get answers to these common questions.

Updated December 15, 2020

How do I know if I am eligible for weight-loss surgery?

The Virtua Weight-Loss Surgery Program follows guidelines supported by the National Institutes of Health in order to determine a patient's eligibility for weight- loss surgery. Rather than using weight, we use body mass index (BMI) as a criteria for surgery—excess fat in relation to height. You may be a candidate for surgery if:

  • Your BMI is greater than 40 or between 35 and 40 with major obesity-related medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperchloremia (electrolyte disturbance), or sleep apnea.  (Calculate your BMI)
  • You have failed previous weight-loss attempts

Is weight-loss surgery right for everyone?

The short answer is no. Surgery is not a solution for everyone. We only determine whether a patient meets the requirements for surgery. It’s only after a complete evaluation, intensive education and discussion with the patient, that he or she may decide to pursue surgery. Because weight-loss surgery is a life-altering procedure, we want to make sure our patients are committed to making the lifestyle changes needed for a successful procedure and life-long health maintenance

What are the risks of weight-loss surgery?

All major surgery comes with risks, and the risks are different for each patient. Virtua weight-loss surgeons have excellent below-national benchmark risk outcomes. During your first appointment, your surgeon will discuss your current health status and explain your individual risk.

How much weight will I lose? Will the weight loss be quick?

The amount of weight you lose—and how fast you lose it—depends on what weight-loss surgery you have and your commitment to following the program. Patients who have adjustable gastric banding (Lap-Band) procedures usually lose weight more slowly the first year than those who have gastric bypass (RYGB), vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) or duodenal switch procedures (DS). Typically, the average patient loses between 60 to 80 percent of his or her excess body weight after RYGB or DS and between 60 to 70 percent after VSG. Weight loss with gastric banding is less predictable. The amount of weight loss also depends on your age, gender, starting BMI and your ability to adhere to lifestyle changes necessary to make surgery a success.

Can I become pregnant after weight-loss surgery?

Weight-loss surgery has actually been linked with producing a sudden positive change in fertility. After bariatric surgery, women with fertility problems linked to obesity may begin ovulating regularly for the first time in years. However, women should avoid pregnancy for at least 18 months after surgery. Please discuss any pregnancy plans with your surgeon during one of your scheduled appointments.

Will my insurance cover the procedure?

Insurance coverage depends on your individual insurance plan. For example, some insurance companies require a patient to be in a physician-supervised weight-loss program for at least a year before surgery or meet other specific requirements. Before you come in for your initial appointment with the surgeon, please call your insurance company to find out if weight-loss surgery is covered. There’s a contact person in each office to help guide you through the surgical preoperative process.

If I am interested in weight-loss surgery, what is my first step?

If you’re interested in weight-loss surgery, please call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 to schedule an initial consultation. Our personal navigators will help you register for an information session where you will learn more about our program and our weight-loss surgery options.

After the first appointment, how long will it take before I have surgery?

This depends on your insurance provider and the criteria they require, as well as the tests and requirements the surgical team deems necessary.

How long will I have to stay in the hospital after surgery?

Your hospital stay will depend on the type of weight-loss surgery you have. Generally, hospital stays are between 1 to 5 days depending on the surgical procedure.

How long after metabolic and bariatric surgery will I have to be out of work?

Depending on the type surgery the patient had, most individuals can return to work in 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. You will have low energy for a while after surgery and may need to take some half days, or work every other day for your first week back. Your surgeon will give you clear instructions.

When can I start exercising again after surgery?

You can exercise right away. You will take gentle, short walks even while you are in the hospital. The key is to start slow, listen to your body and your surgeon. If you lift weights or do sports, stay “low impact” for the first month (avoid competition, think participation). Build slowly over several weeks. If you swim, your wounds need to be healed over before you get back in the water.

Will I need to have plastic surgery? Does insurance pay for plastic surgery?

Most patients have some loose or sagging skin, but it’s often more temporary than expected. You will experience many changes between 6 and 18 months after surgery. Your individual appearance depends upon several things, including how much weight you lose, your age, your genetics and whether or not you exercise or smoke. Generally, loose skin is well-hidden by clothing. Many patients wear compression garments, which can be found online, to help with “appearance.”

Some patients will choose to have plastic surgery to remove excess skin. Most surgeons recommend waiting at least 18 months, but you can be evaluated before that. Plastic surgery for removal of excess abdominal and breast skin is often covered by insurance for reasons of moisture, hygiene and rash/skin issues. Arms and other areas may not be covered if they are considered “purely” cosmetic by your insurer.

Looking for bariatric weight-loss surgery support?

Virtua offers: 

  • Support groups in Moorestown and Voorhees
  • Virtua Weight-Loss Surgery Group Facebook page: a "closed" group that's available for patients that offers ongoing support on the journey to a healthy lifestyle