30/10/2017 17:46 SAST | Updated 30/10/2017 19:04 SAST

On Weight-Loss Surgery In South Africa: 5 Things You Should Know

Psychometric tests are part of the screening process.

Portrait of gastric bypass surgery in hospital.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Portrait of gastric bypass surgery in hospital.

Weight-loss or bariatric surgery has helped many overweight and obese people lose a ton of weight.

However, whether you opt for a gastric bypass or a gastric sleeve -- both popular types of weight-loss surgery -- the procedures are not without conditions or cons.

1. Only extremely overweight or obese people should consider weight-loss surgery

If you're considering weight-loss surgery, you must have a body mass index of 40 and above and must have made serious attempts to lose weight in the past. According to medical weight-loss specialists Durban Bariatric Surgery, you must not be suffering from any disease that may be causing your excess weight and must also not have "drug, alcohol or emotional problems". The screenings involve psychometric assessments.

2. It is not cheap

It could cost anything from R60,000 to R140,000 and upwards, depending on the procedure.

Depending on your plan, some medical aids do cover at least part of the surgery. There are some schemes, however, that consider this kind of surgery as cosmetic and thus preclude it from cover.

"People tend to see obesity surgery as cosmetic, but it is not. It's a method to cure a range of diseases instead of trying to control them with medicine, which gets more difficult and more expensive as these diseases progress," said Dr Garry Fetter, a surgeon who has extensive weight-loss surgery experience. These diseases include diabetes and hypertension.

3. It is risky

Possible complications that could arise after the surgery include gallstones, bowel obstruction, ulcers and hernias.

Mayo Clinic also cautions about side effects such as hair loss, body aches, dry skin and mood changes that could result from the surgery.

4. It is strict

You usually have to achieve a certain weight before the surgery can be performed and follow a strict diet after the operation. The rules are also quite strict about how food should be re-introduced: first liquids, then soft foods and eventually solid food. There are also some foods you might need to avoid afterwards and some nutritional supplements you'll be recommended to take.

Most patients lose about 5 kilograms of weight per month after the surgery and reach a stable weight between 18 and 24 months.

5. There are doctors who take chances on this kind of surgery

There have been some cases where unqualified doctors have performed weight-loss surgery and were found guilty of unprofessional conduct.

First check with the Health Professions Council of South Africa if your surgeon is qualified or if the medical centre providing the surgery is accredited.