Reena Tiwari, a 32-year-old housewife from Mumbai lost 30 kgs after undergoing bariatric surgery five years ago. In her family, her husband, sister, and 14-year-old son have also been through the procedure to treat obesity and other disorders related to it.
The Tiwaris are not the only ones; a growing number of people are taking to this weight loss procedure to find a new lease of life.
The number of bariatric patients in India has gone up from 3,500 in 2011 to 14,000 in 2014, an increase of 400% in four years, according to the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO). Doctors attribute this meteoric rise to growing awareness about physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
Better quality of life
Bariatric or metabolic surgery is a laparoscopic (key-hole) operation that checks obesity and related complications by cutting 50-70% of excess body weight. It reduces the stomach capacity from 1.5l to 150 ml and a person’s diet by 90%, so much so that they feel full after having a toast, a glass of liquid and a banana.
It is more effective in reversing type 2 diabetes than intensive lifestyle changes or medication, suggests a recent study published in Diabetologia. The research highlights that its benefits are not just limited to treating morbid obesity; it also reduces the risk of premature death and corrects co-morbidities, medical conditions arising from obesity or diabetes.
Is it for you?
Anyone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 32.5 (with co-morbidities) and 37.5 (without co-morbidities) can get it done. “It is usually recommended for adults between 18 to 70 years, but in certain cases we have operated on children as young as 13,” says Dr Prashanth Rao from Global Hospital, Mumbai.
Not just a weight-loss surgery
Bariatric surgery not just cures medical issues related to obesity; it helps a host of other issues – it ensures complete remission of type 2 diabetes, improves satiety, cures obstructive sleep apnea (irregular and untimely sleep), hypertension, treats vision impairment, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, pain in joints, cystic ovaries and infertility in women.
K Harish Narayanan, a 45-year-old government servant from Delhi, weighed 175 kgs half a decade ago. Now, after the procedure, he is 100 kgs. “It was a life-transformative experience. I have got a complete makeover and now I am the most active person in my office,” he says.
A relatively low risk procedure
“Though it involves all the risks of a surgery, the probability of any serious risk ranges between 0.1% to 0.3%,” says Dr Rao, adding, “We operate on high-risk patients. It is their co-morbidities and not the surgery that is risky. The probability of an operation failing is just 5%.”
Dr AK Kriplani, head bariatric surgeon of Gurgaon’s Fortis Memorial Institute, attributes the reduced risk to growing experience from an increase in the surgeries performed. “We choose our patients and optimise their conditions to make sure every operation is a success,” he adds.
Not fully insured
Depending on the type of surgery and the hospital ward, the procedure can cost between Rs 3 and 6 lakh. The instruments and disposables used are expensive, say doctors. It is not yet fully covered by insurance since it is regarded as a cosmetic surgery.
“It is always easier to treat the primary cause (obesity) than the complications it gives rise to. The procedure, therefore, is a lot more cost-effective than other surgeries that obese people need to undergo,” Dr Kriplani says.
A serious matter
Patients need to be on a 15-day liquid diet before and after the surgery. Since the liver gets smaller, they cannot eat solid food for a month after getting discharged from the hospital and must keep a strict tab on diet and fitness routine.
“Surgery is only one part of the treatment. Its success depends on a patients’ discipline. Some get operated without understanding that they will have to maintain a strict diet and fitness regime all their lives,” cautions Dr Kriplani.
“I have to take vitamins, calcium and iron regularly,” says Narayanan who cycles 5 km every day. He also gets an ultrasound and blood tests done every six months.
Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.