Is COVID-19 an obstacle to obesity surgery?


Dr Mehmet Gencturk, General Surgery Specialist at Dr. HE Obesity Clinic in Istanbul, Turkey, looks at the latest advice concerning surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Istanbul Obesity Surgery, it is our first priority to consider what is best for you and your health. At this risky time, we therefore felt it necessary for us to keep our patients informed about whether or not obesity surgeries should go ahead and to address some of the questions that we have been receiving:

  • Should I have surgery?
  • Would my surgery jeopardize the safety of me and the medical team that performed the surgery?
  • Would I have problems recovering from surgery?
  • Does the restriction of nutrition period negatively affect my immune system?

The whole world is trying to combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Covid-19 is a highly infectious virus with a mortality rate of 0.5 to 10%. All countries and their health systems are taking various measures for this. Some countries have declared a curfew, while others have closed their country’s borders completely.

This virus poses a risk for anyone with chronic disease, even if it usually affects the elderly population. Intensive care may be required later in the infection. Although there is a low probability after obesity operations, a patient may need to spend the first day after surgery in an intensive care unit for precautionary purposes. Therefore, the current situation both puts the obesity surgery patient at possible risk of COVID-19 transmission and decreases the capacity of intensive care units which are very important in combating the virus.

Surgeries are divided into three categories: emergency, elective and semi-elective. Obesity surgery is categorised as elective surgery. Currently the Ministry of Health of the Republic Turkey has recommended that all non-urgent elective surgery be postponed. This is in line with measures taken by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abroad that have recommended postponing all day or elective surgery procedures.

Similarly, in the USA, the American College of Surgeons has prepared a triage guide: COVID-19: Guidance for Triage of Non-Emergent Surgical Procedures. In this guide, obesity surgery is evaluated as class 2A, i.e. as an operation that is performed for a disease that is not life-threatening, but is likely to cause various health problems in the future. Their suggestion is to postpone these operations or perform day surgery.

In view of the scope of the recommendations of national and international authorities and all the current information on the situation, the team at Dr. HE Obesity Clinic has therefore taken the decision to inform their valued patients that all weight loss surgeries are postponed until the threat posed by the COVID-19 virus is eliminated.

About the author

Dr Mehmet Gencturk is General Surgery Specialist at Dr. HE Obesity Clinic in Istanbul, one of Turkey’s leading surgical weight loss clinics. Led by renowned bariatric surgeon, Assoc Prof Dr Hasan Erdem, the clinic offers expert assessment and personalised treatment solutions including sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass and non-surgical weight loss (gastric balloon).

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