A rising number of Australians are turning to surgery to control their weight.
An Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing report (Weight loss surgery in Australia 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics) revealed hospital admission for weight loss surgery in 2014-15 was up 67 per cent compared to 2009 (from 9300 to 22,700).
With two thirds of Australia’s population overweight or obese and surgeon Dr Tim Wright, from Newcastle Obesity Services, see the increase as a positive.
“Weight loss surgery is about health,” Dr Wright said.
“Obesity directly affects life expectancy and quality of life.
“Non-surgical weight loss works in the short term for some people but is rarely sustainable.
“If the weight persists after five years, and a person’s BMI is 35 or above, long term health considerations dictate alternatives be considered.”
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One of those alternatives is weight loss surgery and Dr Wright feels that in many cases, the question should not be whether a person has surgery, but how long they should wait.
“Apart from the high likelihood of contracting chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers, obesity takes it toll on hips and knee joints adding to increased likelihood of injury and/or diminished quality of life which further impacts on life expectancy,” Dr Wright said.
“The risks of the operation are low compared to the risks of not losing weight, and the benefits of surgery in terms of health and ongoing quality of life are compelling.
“So many people I treat say I saved their life, or that their life is so much better.”
There are a number a basic weight loss surgeries, the commonest of which is sleeve gastrectomy, where the stomach is trimmed by 90 per cent of its size.
“For most people, it’s a very effective weight loss operation with minimal side effects and low complication rates,” Dr Wright said.
“People feel full and often lose their appetite, which they are happy about.”
Two other procedures commonly performed, depending on the patient, are gastric bypass and duodenal switch.
“Procedures being done today are much more effective and lower risk than what was done 30 years ago,” Dr Wright said.
“It’s also become more generally acceptable to consider weight loss surgery.
“These days the stigma is no longer applicable and people are open about it, when a few years ago people tried to hide it.”
Similarly the cost is no longer the barrier it might once have seemed.
“Affordability and accessibility are good,” Dr Wright said. “The typical cost comes in around the same as a cheap second hand car.
“It depends on a person’s financial situation, but most people privately insured could expect it done within two or three months.
“Some patients might be advised to join a health fund and get it done in 12 months.
“It’s not available in the public system, but people not insured can still get it done for a reasonable price.”
Dr Wright and his colleague Dr Mark Gately hold free monthly information sessions in Maitland and Newcastle where they give advice and guidance about the types of weight loss surgery available, the costs associated and ways to finance it.
To book your place at the next obesity surgery information session, ring 02 40328777.
For more general information, visit www.newcastleobesitysurgery.com.au.
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