Pre-Operative Psychological Testing

There are two possible reasons for pre-operative psychological testing prior to bariatric surgery. One is to weed out those with significant psychopathology in whom surgery would be contra-indicated, the other to pre-select those in whom the surgery is likely to be a success.

Studies of severely overweight persons conducted before their undergoing bariatric surgery have shown: a) that there is no single personality type that characterizes the severely obese. b) that this population does not report greater levels of psychopathology than do average-weight control subjects; and c) that the complications specific to severe obesity include body image disparagement and binge eating.

Studies conducted after bariatric surgery and weight loss have shown 1) that self esteem and positive emotions increase; 2) that body image disparagement decreases; 3) that marital satisfaction increases, but only if a measure of satisfaction existed before surgery; and 4) that eating behavior is improved dramatically. The results of bariatric surgery are superior to those of dietary treatment alone. Practitioners should be aware that severely obese persons are subjected to prejudice and discrimination and should be treated with an extra measure of compassion and concern to help alleviate their feelings of rejection and shame.

Accordingly, routine pre-operative psychological evaluation should be required in patients who have a history of severe psychiatric disturbance or who are currently under the care of a psychologist/psychiatrist or who are on psycho-tropic medications. Such patients, and those under the age of 18 years, should be required either to have psychiatric clearance in writing from their counselor or to undergo psychiatric evaluation before bariatric surgery. Other patients who wish to have the benefit of psychologic counseling before surgery should be encouraged to do so.

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