Could an operation help you?

Sometimes an operation may be suggested. There are several different types of operation. They involve reducing the size of the stomach, so that the person eats less food, and may also bypass some of the gut, so that the body absorbs less of the food.

For children, surgery is not generally recommended. In very rare cases, an operation may be suggested for a young person who has been through puberty and is seriously obese. This will need to be done by a team with experience and special skills in treating young people, and the young person will need support before and after the operation.

Operations for adults

An operation is only recommended for people who are seriously obese (a BMI over 40), have tried all the other ways of losing weight without success, and have already been treated by a specialist obesity team.

Other groups of people who are overweight or obese may still be assessed for bariatric surgery. An assessment means your healthcare professional will check to see if an operation might be best for you if you're in one of these groups. It doesn't mean you will definitely be offered an operation, or that an operation will be the right choice for you.

You should be prioritised for a bariatric surgery assessment if you have type 2 diabetes and have a BMI of 35 or over (this is particularly important for black, Asian family origin or minority ethnic groups – see Assessing your weight).

You may be considered for a bariatric surgery assessment if you have a BMI of 30–34.9 and have type 2 diabetes. If you are of Asian family origin and have type 2 diabetes, you may still be considered even at a lower BMI.

Is an operation right for me?

These are major operations. If your doctor thinks an operation may be suitable for you, you should talk in detail with the surgeon and the specialist obesity team – who work with other healthcare professionals who will be involved in your care – about the possible problems as well as the benefits. You will need checks to make sure you don't have any medical conditions that could make the operation dangerous for you, and that you will be able to cope with:

  • the operation itself

  • recovering from the operation

  • adjusting to the long-term lifestyle changes needed

  • the need for ongoing diet supplements and monitoring.

For children, surgery is not generally recommended. In very rare cases, an operation may be suggested for a young person who has been through puberty and is seriously obese. This will need to be done by a team with experience and special skills in treating young people, and the young person will need support before and after the operation.

Follow-up care

You will need to make long-term changes to your eating habits to get the full benefit from the operation, and the team will need to be sure you can do this. You will also need to agree to regular appointments with the team afterwards to check your health (to make sure any medication you have is working well and that you aren't having any other problems) and diet (you may need extra supplements and nutrients), and you should be given help and support to recover and adjust after your surgery.

This follow-up and monitoring should carry on for at least 2 years with the same group of healthcare professionals who cared for you at the time of your surgery. After that, you will still need to have your health, diet and need for any extra nutrients and supplements checked regularly by your doctor for the rest of your life.

Questions to ask about having an operation for obesity

  • Why are you suggesting an operation for me?

  • What does the operation involve, and what are the risks?

  • How quickly will I lose weight after the operation?

  • After I lose weight, am I likely to put some or all of it back on again?

  • What will I be able to eat after the operation?

  • What care and support will I need after the operation?

  • Are there any local peer support groups I could join?

  • Will I need to take medicine or supplements after the operation for the rest of my life?

  • Does my child really need an operation for their obesity?

  • Information Standard