Jefferson University Hospitals

Criteria for Bariatric Surgery

Jefferson's Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Program follows the guidelines established in 1991 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference on the Surgical Management of Obesity. Although 1991 may seem like a long time ago, the NIH has met since then but has not made significant changes to the recommendations.

Are You a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?

Today, most surgeons and virtually all insurance companies continue to use these criteria as a starting point. You are considered a candidate for bariatric surgery – that is, someone for whom the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks – if you:

  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Have made repeated failed attempts at nonsurgical weight loss
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 (which corresponds roughly to 75 pounds over ideal weight) or higher. 
  • BMI of 35 or higher, in addition to a weight-related condition, such as severe diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or sleep apnea.
  • Are psychologically competent to understand the procedure and the postoperative plan

Additionally, if you are extremely obese – that is, greater than 400 pounds – we will help you manage your weight down to 400 pounds or less before surgery. Doing so helps to reduce complications during surgery and risks after surgery.

Why You May Not Be a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery

However, even if you meet the NIH criteria, you may NOT be a good candidate for surgery based on certain inherited and acquired diseases or other risks. Examples of those diseases, conditions and risks which would NOT make you a good candidate for surgery include, but are not limited to:

  • Crohn's disease
  • Leukemia
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Active hepatitis B
  • Cirrhosis
  • Active alcohol or drug abuse
  • Untreated psychiatric disorders