What do Patients Expect of Bariatric Surgery – Too Much or Not Enough?

There is no question that with improved results, patients and physicians are beginning to look at bariatric surgery as a realistic and definitive option for the treatment of morbid obesity.

However, do even well-informed patients have the right expectations? This issue was recently addressed by Andrea Bauchowitz and colleagues from the University of Virginia, who examined weight loss expectations of 217 consecutive preoperative patients.

It turns out that over two-thirds of patients (65%) had misconceptions about the amount of weight they would lose after surgery. On average, patients thought that they would lose around 80% of excess weight, when in fact a good response to surgery is probably anything greater than 50% of excess weight.

Almost one-third of patients did not look at surgery as a tool to help make dietary changes and increase physical activity – rather, they thought that surgery would merely prevent overeating.

There were likewise misconceptions regarding length of hospital stay and the importance of post-surgical depression.

Overall, the results of this study show that many patients have misconceptions about the amount of weight loss they can expect from surgery and do not appreciate the need for lifestyle changes after surgery.

Therefore, implementing a thorough patient education program that fosters adequate knowledge about the nutritional and behavioural aspects of surgery as well as the amount of weight loss to be expected may be an important part of preparing patients for surgery.

A previous paper by Bauchowitz, where she examined how bariatric programs evaluate and interpret the psychosocial situation of patients with regard to surgery is available online (click here for full-text). While this study does not tell us whether centres which demand more of their patients have better outcomes, it does provide a list of common practices and things to think about when preparing patients for surgery.