Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Bariatric Surgery Frequently Asked Questions
What if I have participated in a non-VA weight loss program but have no documentation for it?
The VA requires documentation for any non-VA weight loss program, and this must be scanned into your electronic chart. If you do not have documentation, we recommend that you join the MOVE! Weight management program for a minimum of 6 months.
How do I start the process of getting a bariatric surgery consult?
If you have already met the basic qualifying criteria and are interested in being considered for surgery, speak with your primary care provider to continue the process. If you are unsure whether you meet the basic qualifying criteria speak with a provider.
How do I get enrolled in the MOVE! Weight management program?
Ask your primary care team member to refer you to your local MOVE! Team.
What if my primary care provider is not within the VA system?
You must be enrolled in the VA system in order to benefit from this service. When you enroll in the VA system you are automatically assigned to a primary care team who can help you navigate through the process of being referred for surgery.
How long will the process take to get surgery if I enroll in the MOVE! Program today?
If you are progressing through MOVE! appropriately, demonstrating positive lifestyle changes with weight loss towards your 5% goal, and are a non-smoker, you could potentially be ready for surgery at the 6 month mark.
What is required of me prior to surgery?
- You will need medical clearance from your primary care provider.
- Several visits to see the nurse practitioner, dietitian, and clinical psychologist for evaluations, education, and counseling to prepare you for what to expect after surgery.
- You will have an initial consult visit with the bariatric surgeon and nurse practitioner, as well as an H&P (history and physical) and anesthesia appointment prior to surgery.
- You will need blood work done or other tests to medically clear you for surgery.
- If you do not live local to the Ralph H Johnson VA Medical Center, a good portion of this can be completed at your local site or over the telephone. We expect that non-local patients will have to travel to Charleston, SC at least once prior to their surgery date.
Is it possible to regain weight even after having weight loss surgery?
Yes, it is possible to regain some or all of your weight following weight loss surgery. In order for bariatric surgery to work for you, you MUST commit to changing your diet and lifestyle for the rest of your life. Bariatric Surgery is simply a TOOL to help you reach your weight loss goals.
How much weight can I expect to lose with bariatric surgery?
Expected weight loss differs depending on the type of surgery you have. Typically, a compliant patient who undergoes the Roux-En-Y gastric bypass can expect to lose 60-70% of EXCESS body weight. The compliant Sleeve Gastrectomy patient can expect to lose 50-60% of EXCESS body weight. The compliant gastric band patient can expect to lose 40-50% of EXCESS body weight.
How many days can I expect to be in the hospital after bariatric surgery?
The average length of stay following weight loss surgery is 2-3 days, however it is extremely individual to each patient.
How long will I have to be out of work after surgery?
Recovery following bariatric surgery largely depends on the type of surgery you had, your age, and other health issues, but usually ranges from 2-6 weeks. Speak with the Bariatric Surgery Coordinator and surgeon for the most accurate and individualized estimation of expected time away from work.
Is getting pregnant after bariatric surgery possible?
Yes! Pregnancy is possible but you are encouraged to wait at least 18-24 months after surgery before becoming pregnant because this is the “rapid weight loss phase." In some patients, you may actually be more fertile than in the past, so it is common to recommend that 2 forms of birth control be used during the “rapid weight loss phase.”
How soon can I drive after I have weight loss surgery?
It depends on what type of procedure you have, and your ability to react quickly. You cannot drive while taking pain medicines.
What can I do now to increase my chances of being successful after weight loss surgery?
It is important to remember that weight loss surgery is a tool to help you lose weight. To be fully successful after surgery, it is important that you incorporate healthy eating and frequent exercise into your life. Frequent exercise means at least 20 minutes, 4-5 days per week. In addition, you must be a non-smoker. Smoking cessation classes are available through the VA; ask your primary care team for details.
It is true that I will have to take vitamins everyday for the rest of my life?
Yes, there are several vitamins that are required for life, and it depends on the type of procedure you have as to which ones you take. For most patients, you will be REQUIRED to take 2 multivitamins, 1 Vitamin B12, and 6 Calcium Citrate tablets per day. These are not an option, and for the majority of patients will be purchased as over-the-counter supplements at your local grocery store. Generic brands are allowed.