Weight Loss Sometimes Needed Prior to Surgery to Reduce Complications

Risk of infection, recurrence go down as pounds come off

DAYTON, Ohio (September 11, 2018) – A surgeon can sometimes delay an elective surgery when a person’s weight seems to place them at risk for complications.

J. Scott Wilcher, MD, a general surgeon with North Dayton Surgeons, said there are times when he may postpone a person’s surgery when he feels their weight is a risk factor for infections or could even cause the health issue being addressed to return.

“There are times when I might postpone surgery to give a person an opportunity to get to a healthier weight,” said Dr. Wilcher, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “Obesity has been correlated with complications such as infections. It also can cause an issue such as a hernia to return even after it is repaired.”

The most common measurement of obesity is a person’s BMI, or body mass index. Someone who has a BMI of greater than 30 would be considered obese. Someone who has a BMI of greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese. A normal BMI usually falls between 18.5 and less than 25.

Dr. Wilcher said certain surgeries – such as those to repair a hernia or address an orthopedic issue – can be delayed until a person can lower their BMI to under 40.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), obesity alone is a significant risk factor for wound infections, more surgical blood loss and a longer operation time. And the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) said that obesity can complicate the amount of anesthesia that is needed during surgery. One of the biggest concerns with obesity is sleep apnea, a condition in which a person may stop breathing. This condition can make anesthesia riskier.

Dr. Wilcher said it can be difficult for a person to hear that their surgery should be postponed until they lose weight. He encourages these individuals to keep the following in mind.

Trust your surgeon knows best – Understand that while a postponed surgery may be hard to accept it may be what is best for your health. Try not to become discouraged and instead seek advice on how to start down a path for weight loss.

Enlist the help of your primary care provider – Dr. Wilcher often refers patients back to their primary care provider where they can help formalize a plan for weight loss. Don’t delay making this appointment and don’t feel ashamed about asking your primary care office to help partner with you to reach a weight loss goal.

Know there is extra help when needed – Sometimes traditional weight loss strategies – such as cutting calories or increasing exercise – is not enough. There are physicians who specialize in medical weight loss. Premier Weight Loss Solutions, for instance, offers specialized weight loss help, including non-surgical options that incorporate exercise and behavioral components, and when needed, the option for weight loss surgery.

“It’s not uncommon for individuals to go this route. Losing weight is very hard,” Dr. Wilcher said. “It’s harder than you think to get yourself to a weight of 200 if you are currently at 280. Often in those situations, weight loss surgery does help.”

Don’t let discouragement win – The worse thing a person can do is become discouraged at the outset of their weight loss journey. Surround yourself with the right support, and don’t think your surgery will never happen if the weight doesn’t come off.

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