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29 Oct 2011

Weight-loss surgery communication lacking in doctor’s offices

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October 29, 2011 Category: Health Posted by:



An estimated 72 million adults currently are affected by obesity in the U.S. Yet, significant barriers are keeping adults affected by obesity and their primary care physicians from talking openly about bariatric, or weight loss, surgery.



Bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment available for morbid obesity and can result in the improvement or complete resolution of obesity-related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea.


Yet, only one in 10 who meet the National Institutes of Health guidelines for bariatric surgery have had their doctor recommend it, according to a national survey sponsored by the Obesity Action Coalition and Ethicon Endo-Surgery.


The survey also found that health care professionals tend to underestimate patients’ willingness to discuss their weight and their receptiveness to discuss bariatric surgery. Six in 10 physicians believe most individuals affected by obesity are too embarrassed to discuss their weight with a health care professional. However, more than four out of five reported they are not too embarrassed, suggesting the conversation would be welcomed.


“Health care professionals should be having detailed discussions with people suffering from obesity about all of their treatment options, including bariatric surgery,” says Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO for Obesity Action Coalition. “These survey results highlight the need for increased dialogue between patients and physicians around obesity, a disease where treatment can effectively manage symptoms and prevent untimely deaths.”


The survey also found that the top perceived drawback of bariatric surgery for individuals affected by obesity is the misplaced fear that it is dangerous (59 percent). Physicians share this concern, with eight of 10 reporting fear of surgery complications as one of the biggest barriers.


“As with any surgical procedure, there are risks. However, it is important to stress that bariatric surgery is considered a safe option for weight loss,” says Dr. Christopher Still, director of the Geisinger Obesity Institute, medical director, Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, and OAC Board Member. “In fact, bariatric surgery is as safe or safer than many commonly performed procedures, such as gall bladder removal or hip replacement when performed at a Center of Excellence.”


If you are considering weight loss surgery, talk to your doctor about risks, benefits and different options for surgery. Attending an informational seminar with a surgeon is an important step in deciding if bariatric surgery is right for you. For more information about bariatric surgeons and informational seminars in your area, visit


Information about the survey:


  • Subjects defined as U.S. adults 18 and older who have a BMI of 35 or more with at least one obesity related comorbidity or BMI of 40 or more.
  • PCPs and OB/GYNs were interviewed.
  • Dr. Still is a consultant for Ethicon Endo-Surgery.
  • Total number of hours was calculated by taking the average number of months spent seriously considering surgery divided by 12 months per year times 52 weeks per year times average number of hours per week.
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