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Why Does the Bariatric Surgery Process Take So Long?

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What stands out to most patients when they begin their bariatric journey is how long it takes to go from the initial consultation to surgery. After all, we’re all aware that obesity is a disease that causes several follow-on metabolic disorders that can be debilitating or even life-threatening. We also know that the obesity problem is not improving in the United States or worldwide. Unfortunately, while weight loss medications and injections that are currently so popular do offer a short-term solution, the likelihood is that they will not usher in the long-term lifestyle change required to change the tide.

One of the most significant barriers to a patient getting bariatric surgery is how long they must wait to get their procedure. While the weight loss surgery process is not quick or easy, it can’t be challenging to maintain the excitement and motivation of that initial decision for several months. Let’s dig into why bariatric surgery can take so long and what patients can do about it to shorten the process.

Fear of Surgery

As a surgical practice that has performed thousands of procedures over the years, it’s easy for us to dismiss the fears that accompany a surgical procedure, especially if this is the first surgical intervention the patient has experienced. We know that the fear of surgery can stop some people from moving along. It’s important to remember that the initial contact you have with our practices and even the subsequent testing necessary to move along is not a commitment to surgery. We want you to be committed to your decision. We also want you to feel comfortable going into surgery, and we will do everything we can, up to the day of the procedure, to allay any fears and help you through the process. That said, it’s important to remember that bariatric surgery is extremely safe and effective. The major complication rates of bariatric interventions are no higher than a typical and routine gallbladder procedure. Our techniques and technology make this a viable intervention for most people with obesity.

Pre-Op Testing

There are several tests that all patients will have to undergo to ensure that they are suitable for bariatric surgery. This will include a cardiovascular evaluation, psychological evaluation, pulmonary tests, and others as needed. A specialist outside our office typically performs these, and it’s up to the patient to make their appointments so we can evaluate the results. We encourage our patients to speak to the specialists we refer to as they can often get them in quickly for the testing they need.


The insurance process is also a significant hold-up – probably the biggest. Insurance companies want to ensure that patients have tried virtually every other weight loss tactic before they pay for surgery. This is despite the excellent long-term results that most patients enjoy after surgical intervention. Insurance companies will have varying requirements for bariatric coverage, some of which can include a medical weight loss program of up to six months. While not much can be done to shorten this process, it’s essential that all the information you collect and submit to the insurance company is accurate and answers their questions. Inaccuracies and even typos can lead to a rejection of the preauthorization and further delays in the process.

The Cash Payment Option

Patients may also choose to pay out-of-pocket for their surgery. While this is not inexpensive, most patients will find it dramatically reduces the preoperative period. Further, today’s insurance policies often have very high deductibles. Because of these out-of-pocket expenses, cash payment may not be a huge financial leap, even with insurance. This is a personal financial decision that must be made with care. Learn more about Dr. Higa’s cash pay program.

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