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Common misconception that surgery is cosmetic

Not everyone who approaches him for bariatric surgery, a weight-loss surgical procedure, will be allowed to go through it, said Dr Jaideepraj Rao.

The director of the bariatric surgery programme at Tan Tock Seng Hospital said that only those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 32.5 are recommended the procedure.

A subsidised bariatric operation costs between $6,000 and $10,000. It can cost up to $20,000 without subsidy, the doctor said.

Dr Rao, who operated on Mr Samat and his family, said patients who are borderline obese are first put through a diet programme before surgery is considered.

"I will recommend younger patients, like Miss Sakdah, who do not have diabetes and are volume eaters, to go for sleeve gastrectomy," he said.

"Those who are slightly older and suffer from conditions like diabetes can opt for a gastric bypass."

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While more people are opting for bariatric surgery, Dr Rao is quick to debunk a common myth - that weight-loss surgery is for cosmetic purposes.

"It is actually a metabolic surgery meant to cure or treat medical conditions, but people don't have that concept," he said.

As bariatric surgery is done in a minimally invasive way nowadays, Dr Asim Shabbir notes a significant decrease in complications.

Dr Asim, a consultant at the National University Hospital's centre for obesity management and surgery, said the risk of a patient losing his life to complications is lower than many major surgeries.

The high cost of the surgery could be a deterrent, but it is a one-time expenditure, he said.

Rather than making medical problems worse, bariatric surgery improves them, Dr Asim said.

For instance, conditions like Type 2 diabetes will be in remission and there will be a significant improvement in medical problems like sleep apnoea and hypertension.

As a result, those with several medical conditions related to obesity can cut down spending on medication, Dr Asim said.