Bariatrics is a medical specialty that prevents and treats obesity. It focuses on the underlying causes of obesity and methods to prevent or alleviate obesity-related disorders. Bariatrics treats obesity through a variety of weight reduction strategies. The field of bariatrics is divided between bariatric medicine and bariatric surgery. Bariatricians, or bariatric medicine physicians, treat patients through a variety of nonsurgical weight reduction strategies, which can include oral medication and behavioral modification techniques. Bariatric surgeons, on the other hand, perform gastrointestinal surgical procedures to induce weight loss in patients who do not respond to medicine or traditional weight loss programs.
Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index measurement (BMI number) greater than 30 due to excess body fat. Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and sleep apnea. Obesity may also have detrimental effects on patients' quality of life and impair physical function. Given these risks, individuals with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 (classified as overweight) may also be seen by bariatricians, particularly if they exhibit symptoms of high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.
Obesity is primarily diagnosed through weight and height measurements, but bariatricians may also perform body composition analyses, electrocardiograms (heart rhythm test), and blood tests to evaluate patient blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Nonsurgical methods used by bariatricians may include:
If diet adjustment and exercise do not lead to weight loss, patients may consider bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgeons perform the following procedures, among others:
Even after patients have reached a healthy weight and achieved their health goals, they may wish to continue visiting a bariatrician for maintenance. Bariatricians and bariatric surgeons may collaborate with nutritionists, registered dietitians, and psychologists to provide comprehensive obesity care.