Follow me on

IFSO Guidelines for Bariatric Centres

The International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO), at its Council Meeting in Porto, Portugal, September 2007, approved new guidelines for Bariatric Surgical Centres.

This not only reflects the global interest in this rapidly growing field of bariatric care, but also the need for guidelines that ensure at least a minimum standard of care for patients undergoing surgery for severe obesity.

The summary document, authored by John Melissas, IFSO President (2006-2007) and Head of the Bariatric Unit, at the University Hospital Heraklion, Greece, appears in this month’s issue of OBESITY SURGERY.

While most of the recommendations make good sense – this document, not surprisingly, provides a view from the surgical perspective rather than providing a framework for overall bariatric care. There is no doubt that currently the surgeons have the upper hand in this discussion, given that the data increasingly supports the role of surgery as the most effective (if not only) treatment for severe obesity.

However, as I have blogged before, obesity surgery is not just about surgery!

The following are my comments on some of the IFSO recommendations:

“Ensure that individuals who provide services in the bariatric surgery program are adequately qualified to provide such services.”

Fully agree, and would probably extend this recommendation to ANYONE dealing with bariatric patients – surgery or no surgery.

“Provide ancillary services such as specialized nursing care, dietary instruction, counseling, and psychological assistance if and when needed.”

Another “no-brainer” – again, not only should these ancillary services be available, but health providers in these services should all have undergone basic training in bariatric care including sensitivity training and have at least a basic understanding of the nature of severe obesity, its complications and treatment.

“Have readily available consultants in cardiology, pulmonology, psychiatry, and rehabilitation with previous experience in treating bariatric surgery patients.”

I would add to the list general internists, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists, intensivists, hospitalists, pharmacists and perhaps a few other specialities.

“Ensure that basic equipment necessary for the obese patients such as scales, operating room tables, instruments, and supplies specifically designed for bariatric laparoscopic and open surgery, laparoscopic towers, wheelchairs, various other articles of furniture, and lifts that can accommodate stretchers are available, as well as a recovery room capable of providing critical care to morbidly obese patients and an intensive care unit with similar capacity.”

This should be an essential requirement for ANY hospital regularly admitting severely obese patients – unfortunately, this is now the case in virtually every hospital in the Western World.

“Have the complete line of necessary equipment, instruments, items of furniture, wheel chairs, operating room tables, beds, radiology facilities such as CT scan and other facilities specially designed and suitable for morbidly and super obese patients.”

Same as above – should probably have such lists available in every hospital or medical facility in Canada.

“Have experienced interventional radiologists available to take over the non- surgical management of possible anastomotic leaks and strictures.”

Good one! Sometimes these would be interventional gastroenterologists. As often some of these services can be urgently needed, it may not be enough to train only one individual to deal with these issues (travel, vacation, etc.). Obviously, radiology facilities for bariatric patients would be essential (see above).

“Has supervised support groups for bariatric patients.”

I agree, support groups can be most helpful for these patients – but they do need supervision to not take off on “tangents”.

“Provides lifetime follow-up for the majority and not less than 75% of all bariatric surgical patients.”

Obviously, patients with bariatric surgery require life-long follow up – I only do not think that this is best done by the surgeon or “surgical” centres – in fact issues in follow-up are rarely surgical.

They are more often related to nutrition, rehabilitation and psychosocial issues that can ultimately determine outcome. Ideally counseling for these problems would be provided by primary care providers, who are adequately trained in looking after these patients – it is after all not “rocket science” – the majority of patients (if correctly selected prior to surgery) will probably do well with nutritional monitoring, regular lab work and access to psychosocial services as the need arises – all the job of primary care, not that of a surgeon.

Overall the IFSO recommendations are sensible and will hopefully be adopted by policy makers and health authorities in most countries, including Canada. Personally though, I prefer the route taken by the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons (CABPS), which ensures that ALL treatment options, both surgical and non-surgical find their place in the management of these complex patients – it is unlikely that surgeons will always provide the best “non-surgical” advise to their patients.

Obesity is indeed an ideal ground for fostering interprofessional practice.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. seca Bariatric Floor Scale – large step-on platform, high capacity and cable-link remote control

    Room for heavyweight problems. This electronic platform scale is specially desingned for weighing adipose patients. The very high capacity of 360kg and the 60 x 60 centimetre large platform offer a solid base even for larger people. Thanks to the low level platform of only 45 millimetres, the person can effortlessly step onto the non-slip surface. Another advantage: The cable remote display can be placed at eye level or, for example, on a table. Nothing in the way to obstruct the view of the display. But the internal values of the seca 634 are also matched completely to the patient’s use. The graduation of 100g enables recognition of even the smallest weight change, so that the success of diet programs can be precisely determined at any time – even after leaving the scale. The HOLD function continues to display the weight if necessary. The TARE function and Pre-TARE function enable weighing in the sitting position or under supervision. That it is also equipped with the Body-Mass-Index function in addition to conventional weight determination is a matter of course for a seca scale such as this one.

    Post a Reply
  2. Hi Dr. Sharma
    I told you that I checked your blog……very interesting information! Jenn Tuttle

    Post a Reply
  3. Absolutely! This issue requires considerations to be made in all healthcare streams across the continuum of care. A severely obese or bariatric patient will need to be discharged at some point, and as they age and their conditions worsen, they will rquire more supportive environments. These environments need to be built or modified to accommodate the larger client and the equipment that may be required — which can be quite costly in terms of materials and square footage from an architectural point of view. Staff require sensitivity training, education around proper skin care techniques and ongoing education and support re patient handling techniques and equipment — and much more. It is a huge issue (no pun intended!).

    In Supportive Living, we are working on increasing our capacity to meet the needs of bariatric clients. Since our client’s reside at privately owned and operated sites, and daily support is provided by the operator’s staff, this has proved challenging. Fortunately, some operators are beginning to see the benefit of building capacity into their new sites. Hopefully we will continue to move forward!

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *