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What Is a Bariatric Evaluation?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bariatric surgery is a field of medicine that involves altering the digestive system to help a patient lose weight. As surgery entails a risk to health, and this particular type of surgery can require permanent lifestyle alterations, patients who want the surgery need to be able to satisfy certain criteria before the surgeon can perform the operation. Typically, although the patient has to undergo medical evaluations, a bariatric evaluation refers to a psychological test which assesses whether a patient understands the risks and is able to handle the possible consequences.

Severely obese people can suffer from many different health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and breathing difficulties. In some cases, these problems may be so severe that weight loss is necessary for good health. When the patient cannot achieve results through diet and exercise, then a doctor may agree that weight loss surgery may be a reasonable option.

Operations can result in complications like infection and even death. Bariatric surgery itself is not a simple solution, but rather the beginning of a permanent lifestyle change for the obese person. To make sure the patient understands the risks of the surgery, and the long term requirements of having an altered digestive system, hospitals and clinics make the patient undergo a psychological test first, which is the bariatric evaluation. If the person cannot abide by a safe and healthy diet after the surgery, or shows no inclination to attempt to lose weight naturally, then the surgery may not be offered.

Individual healthcare institutions that offer bariatric surgery may design their own questionnaires for bariatric evaluation. Alternatively, they may use mental health questionnaires that are widely used across the mental health profession. Typically, a professional psychiatrist or psychologist also interviews the obese person. Areas of the person's personality and attitudes to health generally form part of the questionnaire and interview, like whether he or she smokes, or if he or she suffers from eating disorders apart from overeating.

Although a bariatric evaluation is a common part of a weight loss surgery plan, it may not be a requirement. Often the healthcare insurance company paying for the surgery requires the person to undergo bariatric evaluation and be approved by a mental health professional before funds are released. As well as bariatric evaluation, weight loss surgery candidates generally also undergo an array of medical tests and meet with a nutritionist before being approved for surgery.

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