Weight loss surgery: Expert advice

Star of Really's Fat Surgeons, Shaw Somers has been an NHS consultant surgeon since 1996 and has experience of over 3000 bariatric operations including over 1600 gastric bypasses, 800 gastric bands and 300 complex or revision procedures.

Fat Surgeons

We asked him what to consider when thinking about having weight loss surgery...

What top three pieces of advice would you give to someone thinking of having weight loss surgery

Firstly, read about the surgery on the internet and in books and avoid getting information from 'advertising' sites trying to sell you an operation.

Secondly, see a specialist surgeon who has a team of staff that work together on looking after weight loss surgery patients - make sure they treat lots of patients.

Thirdly, try to stay with a team that is close to your home. This surgery needs aftercare, and travelling long distances makes this difficult.

For someone who might be worried about having the surgery, can you tell us how safe it is?

Generally, having the surgery is safer than being very overweight. The safety statistics show that it is about as safe as having a gallbladder operation.

How should someone who has had weight loss surgery expect their lives to change afterwards? Can they ever go back to having a normal diet?

This surgery can be totally transforming. Past patients say they feel 'reborn' once the weight comes off. Most people eat normal foods after this surgery. The only difference is that they have to eat more slowly and chew well.

What are some of the psychological issues weight loss patients might face before and after surgery?

For many people with weight problems, the use of food as a comfort or an emotional 'soother' is deeply ingrained. When it is no longer there, problems can emerge which need psychotherapy to help solve. These include addiction transfer, feelings of loss, and panic at the thought of having to behave as a normal sized person!

What sort of support is in place for weight loss surgery patients in the UK and how can someone find out if they are eligible for surgery?

National guidance is available for NHS services for weight loss. This includes both medically assisted weight loss and weight loss surgery. Unfortunately, demand for assistance is so high that many health trusts (PCT's) make eligibility criteria very hard to achieve. Your GP should know, or be able to find out easily if you are eligible.

What are the options for patients who suffer from sagging skin after surgery?

Unfortunately, if it is just saggy skin, the NHS will not pay to remove this. Some patients suffer from soreness under the saggy skin, and this can lead to infections and other problems. These patients may become eligible for NHS help if their GP refers them to a plastic surgery unit.