The past several years have witnessed tremendous growth in weight loss surgery. The number of bariatric surgeons in New Jersey has more than quadrupled over the past decade. With so many doctors to choose, what’s most important when choosing your bariatric surgeon?
6 Critical Criteria For Choosing Your Bariatric Surgeon
1. Bariatric Experience
In any medical field, experience reigns supreme. The more experienced your surgeon, the greater your operation’s chance of success. When examining different bariatric surgeons, we recommend you look at the following:
- Number of years in the field of bariatrics;
- Number of bariatric operations performed;
- Variety of bariatric operations performed;
- Participation and leadership in professional organizations representing the field, such as the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (See ASMBS Membership below);
- Publications and research in the field of bariatrics.
Most data suggest that the complication rate (including mortality) is directly related to the number of bariatric operations performed by individual surgeons AND the number performed at a given hospital or medical center. Surgeons who move from one facility to another signal a possible red flag.
2. Board Certification
Make sure your bariatric surgeon has the appropriate medical credentials. He or she should be state licensed and board certified. Certification by the American Board of Surgery demonstrates that a surgeon has:
- Completed training in a program accredited by the American Board of Surgery;
- Passed both parts (written and oral) of examinations given regularly by the Board to young surgeons after completion of their training.
Recertification via another written examination is required every ten years for established surgeons in order to maintain an active certification status. Check that your surgeon’s been certified or recertified in the past 10 years.
3. Strong Commitment to Follow Up
The outcome of every bariatric surgical patient discharged following their operation is a question mark. This is because weight loss typically occurs for more than a year prior to stabilization. Any surgeon who doesn’t follow his/her patients for at least that long will have no idea regarding the effectiveness of the operation performed.
Moreover, longer follow up is necessary to know if patients are keeping their weight off. Regular long-term follow up is essential for obtaining the best weight loss results. Additionally, nutritional counseling should be available at every office visit.
In order to ensure your surgery is a long-term success, investigate the follow-up care of your surgeon and his/her practice. Is it clear that they’ll work with you for years to come?
4. ASMBS Membership
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) is the only professional society in the United States that’s entirely focused on bariatric surgery. In this regard, the ASMBS has proposed guidelines for credentialing both bariatric surgeons and hospitals regarding the special needs of severely obese patients.
The ASMBS also offers educational seminars and courses for both members and other interested parties throughout the year. We strongly believe that competent bariatric surgeons should regularly attend meetings of the ASMBS in order to remain current within the field.
To attain regular membership in the ASMBS (preferred), a surgeon must be board certified and in good standing in his/her local community.
Watch out for affiliate members. They are either inexperienced (less than 25 bariatric operations), not board certified, or both.
5. Hospital and Medical Facilities
It’s extremely important that the hospital or medical facility where your surgery is completed is supportive of a bariatric program. Be sure to ask the following questions:
- Are the anesthesiologists comfortable in managing morbidly obese patients?
- Is the nursing staff comfortable and well educated with regard to the special needs of bariatric patients?
- Does the hospital have special facilities for larger patients (i.e., wheelchairs, beds, gowns, lavatories, etc.)?
- Does the hospital openly endorse/promote their bariatric surgery program?
- Are intensive/critical care physicians and facilities adequate?
6. Office Facilities and Practice
In the surgeon’s office, be sure to determine:
- Has the facility and practice been designated as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence?
- Is the office staff courteous and knowledgeable with regard to your specific needs?
- Does the staff understand the insurance process and nuances associated with third party payors?
- Does the office have special facilities for bariatric patients (i.e., exam tables, chairs, scale, etc.)?
How Does NJ Bariatrics Stack Up?
NJ Bariatrics meets all six of the above criteria.
Our NJ bariatric surgeons have nearly 40 years of combined experience, having performed thousands of bariatric procedures of every type. Both are members of the ASMBS and they strongly advocate regular follow-up care. Additionally, University Medical Center at Princeton (UMCP), where we perform our operations, has one of the best bariatric programs in the state. Lastly, not only is NJ Bariatrics a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, but it was also the first such center in the state of New Jersey.
Next on the agenda is understanding what happens during your initial consultation and evaluation. And if you’re ready, you’ll be able to request a consultation as well.