Jan - Feb 2023

The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis for Bariatric Patients

By Carl A. Weiss, III, MD PhD FACS


“Any non-physician who tries to act like a doctor and who diagnoses themselves, has a fool for a patient. “


I made up this phrase to illustrate an important concept about self-diagnosis. And for bariatric patients this is especially important. Bariatric surgery involves alterations in anatomy and therefore possible nutritional and surgical complications related to these changes. As a result, patients that tend to comply with follow-up seem to fare better in the long run. This is why long-term follow-up is so heavily emphasized.


While some symptoms are a part of everyday living, others require interaction with your medical providers. Constipation and heartburn are frequent issues that patients call about. These problems can oftentimes be managed with over-the-counter medications.  Other symptoms, however, are more worrisome especially for post-op patients. Symptoms that progress over a period of days tend to be significant. Nausea, vomiting and fever are all of concern especially if associated with abdominal pain or bloating/distention.


The question, then, is how to discern overlap between common everyday symptoms and those that warrant some type of evaluation either by phone, or through an office visit or by going to the emergency room. While there is no simple or straightforward answer, the most obvious response is that sorting out many of these issues using one's own judgment (or even worse the Internet), is very likely to be fraught with poor decision making. 


Every surgeon knows that patients who present early with potential surgical issues are more likely to have a better outcome than those who present late. That is the inherent danger for those who delay calling their bariatric surgeon.