• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Psychologists concerned over Lap-Band ruling

March 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Since the government recently lowered the weight requirement for Lap-Band surgery, about 27 million Americans are now eligible for the procedure. But psychologists worry this could be dangerous for people who have unrealistic or unhealthy expectations.

Hypertension is a big concern for Ronald Freeman, but what finally lured him in for a bariatric consultation? Was it all the TV ads, or was he simply motivated to improve his health?

"I believe that if I can lose the weight, I will able to be more healthy because I have high blood pressure," Freeman said.

The Food and Drug Adminstration recently ruled Lap-Band surgery was safe for people with a body mass index of 30. While much of the focus of Lap-Band surgery is on the physical aspect, psychologist Michael Wetter says a patient's state of mind is just as important.

"It does come down to what other coexisting lifestyle changes are you making - your eating behaviors, your exercising behaviors, your mental health, what are you doing to take care of yourself, what are your coping mechanisms," Wetter said.

Wetter said he wants to make sure patients are not using surgery simply as a cosmetic tool.

"We want to make sure that they're not verging on eating disorder or body dismorphic disorder or that they're concerned about the way they look and therefore using surgery as a tool, almost as you will, a cosmetic tool.

Wetter said weight loss candidates with depression often think bariatric surgery will cure everything, but research shows it doesn't. So people really need to consider what their motivation is before signing up for surgery.

"When you come in for bariatric surgery, we take this very seriously. Just like with any medical-surgical procedure, we want to make sure that they're healthy and that they succeed," said Wetter.

Freeman is looking into a form of gastric bypass. While looking better is a motivation, he says he believes the surgery will be the catalyst that will inspire lifelong change.

"I will want to do more exercise and go to the gym and walk and do other physical activities like that," he said.

Freeman hopes to lose 125 pounds.

Wetter said when looking for a surgeon or a weight loss facility look for a Center of Excellence, those are clinics approved by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.