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Bariatric Surgery

Before Your Initial Evaluation

The first thing you should do when considering surgery for weight loss is to educate yourself about the entire process involved in this treatment.

In addition to the information on this site, you are welcome to contact us to request a free information packet or with your individual questions.  We also encourage you to register for a free Informational Session, held monthly at West Penn Hospital.

Before being evaluated for weight-loss surgery, individuals need to complete the following:

Diet History

Weigh in and begin a low-calorie (800-1200 calories/day) diet and exercise program with your primary care physician (PCP).

  • Insurance companies require a documented diet history by/with your PCP.
  • The diet must be 800-1200 calories/day and documented by monthly visits to your PCP.
  • A supervised diet of at least 6 full months within 1 year prior to surgery is usually required.
  • Some insurance companies require proof of history of obesity for at least 5 years (a dated note from your PCP documenting weight would suffice).

Quit Smoking

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

  • The goal of bariatric surgery is to improve your health. Begin to improve your health by not smoking.
  • If you are a smoker, you must quit smoking at least 6-8 weeks before your surgery.
  • Smoking greatly increases the risk of pneumonia, pulmonary embolism (blood clots), and other lung problems after surgery (including prolonged ventilator support).
  • Smoking also impairs wound healing and may increase the risk of leaks.
  • Call your primary care physician if you need medicated patches, gum, or medications to help you quit smoking.
  • Please see www.Anti-smoking.org and other websites for further information.

Health Insurance Approval

Call your health insurance company to determine if you have coverage for the surgical treatment of morbid obesity (diagnosis code 278.01 & procedure codes 43644 for gastric bypass and 43770 for gastric band) prior to your initial visit.

  • Each patient should try to obtain the specific guidelines that your individual plan requires for pre-authorization for weight loss surgery.
  • Some insurance plans cover only specific weight loss surgical procedures.
  • Some insurance plans do not cover weight-loss surgery at all. We offer self-pay plans; our insurance specialists can provide further information.
  • One of our insurance specialists will review your insurance coverage with you during the initial office visit:

East Office Insurance Contact (Maria)

Telephone: 412.235.5903

Fax: 412.235.5901

E-mail: Maria Cannon 

 Exercise Documentation

  • Along with a diet, start some type of an exercise program if possible. This should be documented in your PCP’s notes.
  • Increased levels of activity before surgery improve your health risks for surgery.
  • You can start by daily walking or swimming. A pedometer is a useful tool to monitor your activity level.
  • If you are unable to walk or swim, then lifting hand weights or any other type of physical activity can be beneficial.
  • People who are physically fit enough to “work out” should try for a goal of increasing their heart rate for 30-45 minutes 3-5 times per week. Some popular methods to accomplish this are to use a treadmill or ‘Gazelle,’ or attend an exercise program such as Curves.

Prior Weight-Loss Surgery Records

  • Patients who have had previous weight-loss surgery can be evaluated for possible revisional surgery due to complications, poor weight loss or weight gain. (See Revisional Surgery section.)
  • If you have had prior stomach or weight-loss surgery, we will need:
    • a copy of your bariatric surgery operative report (if possible) and
    • the X-ray films of any recent upper GI X-ray series that you have had (not just the report); patients without a recent upper GI X-ray should contact our clinical coordinator at 412.235.5900 to schedule this test at West Penn Hospital prior to your visit.
  • We also welcome patients who have had previous weight-loss surgery elsewhere and would like to follow up with our program.

Medical Records

  • Please have your primary care physician (PCP) send us a summary letter of your medical history and conditions.
  • If you see a medical specialist (cardiologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, pulmonologist, hematologist, neurologist), please have him or her send us a summary of your health information as well.

Primary Care Visit

  • If you have not had a recent visit with your primary care physician (PCP), please schedule one for an up-to-date history and physical exam and to discuss your interest in weight loss surgery.
  • During the PCP visit, we recommend that patients undergo appropriate screening tests (colonoscopy, mammogram, and Pap test) as recommended by your PCP.
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