Archive for January 2013

Bariatric Surgery is expensive. Is it?

I always love to answer this question.  Most severely-obese patients are ready to undergo bariatric surgery (stomach stapling surgery for the severely obese) to lose weight if they are not afraid of the operation. After all, when years of dieting and rigorous exercises do not lead to visible results, who would not want to take the tried and true method of durable weight loss?

After this, the only issue – important to many but not to some affluent and fortunate few- is the cost. In India, bariatric surgery costs anything between 1.5 to 5 lakhs of rupees depending on the procedure, class of accommodation and the type of consumables used. However, when this is compared to the western countries where it may cost ten times more, the cost of bariatric surgery seems reasonable here.

So why is the cost so much?  Well, let us see the break up this cost first. This is a laparoscopic surgery involving sophisticated and expensive instruments- most of which are single-use-and-throw type. Centers, which recycle these instruments, can reduce the cost of the surgery at the risk of inviting more infection. That kind of practice needs to be discouraged. Secondly, the patients undergoing this surgery often have 80 – 200 kg body weight, harboring multiple diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease with heart stents at times, breathing problems, and so on. This makes them high-risk candidates for anesthesia requiring high-end monitors and gadgets- which are expensive- to ensure safe outcome. Any compromise here will invite disaster. Safety should, as in all surgeries, be of paramount importance and priority.

Now that we understand that most of the money is being wisely spent on ensuring the  best possible safe outcome, the next question regarding the cost would be “Is the money spent going to be worth it?”

Well, let us analyze this. If someone needing the surgery did not want to spend this money with the intention of saving it, what would happen to his or her money?  In a study by Dr Keating published in Diabetes Care in 2009, researchers have recently realized that obese people spend the same amount of money in two years time on various complications of obesity itself. The examples of such expenditure could be laboratory tests, health check ups, and medical treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure often seen in the obese. Many obese subjects also land up having gallstones, hernias, infertility, heart vessel blocks and permanent joint damage usually in the spine and knees necessitating huge expenditure on their surgical correction. Unfortunately, most patients (and their doctors too!) spend a fortune on these purposes without realizing that a stitch in time could have saved nine. In plain words, bariatric surgery in time could have prevented all these procedures and their associated costs. If we add up these costs it may turn out to be 5 to 10 times the cost of the bariatric surgery itself! To see the bariatric surgery video, how we do it visit my you tube page…….

To wrap up, let us examine what are the benefits of bariatric surgery. When an obese individual loses weight, he or she also loses his diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure and on the other hand he or she gains confidence. They become more active physically, mentally and also sexually. With the improvement in his health, well being and quality of life, a person will surely get compliments from relatives and friends. It is impossible to translate these benefits into money but if we go by the words of the patients who have benefitted from bariatric surgery, it is sufficient to say that it is definitely worth every penny spent.


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