Unifying Concepts

Criteria for Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is usually considered when other weight loss efforts have failed. Eligibility criteria were established by the 1991 National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Panel and continue to be the most widely accepted criteria.

Selection and Exclusion Criteria for Bariatric Surgery

Selection criteria

  • Able to adhere to postoperative care (e.g., follow-up visits and tests, medical management, use of dietary supplements)
  • BMI >/= 40 kg per m2
  • BMI >/= 35 kg per m2 with obesity-related comorbidity
  • Previous failed nonsurgical attempts at weight reduction, including nonprofessional programs (e.g., Weight Watchers)

Exclusion criteria

  • Cardiopulmonary disease that would make the risk prohibitive
  • Current drug or alcohol abuse
  • Lack of comprehension of risks, benefits, expected outcomes, alternatives, and required lifestyle changes
  • Reversible endocrine or other disorders that can cause obesity
  • Uncontrolled severe psychiatric illness

BMI = body mass index.



  1. Schroeder R, Garrison JM Jr, Johnson MS. Treatment of adult obesity with bariatric surgery. Am Fam Physician. 2011 Oct 1;84(7):805-14. [Medline]
  2. Padwal R, Klarenbach S, Wiebe N, Hazel M, Birch D, Karmali S, Sharma AM, Manns B, Tonelli M. Bariatric surgery: a systematic review of the clinical and economic evidence. J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Oct;26(10):1183-94. [Medline]
  3. Schneider BE, Mun EC. Surgical management of morbid obesity. Diabetes Care. 2005 Feb;28(2):475-80 [Medline]


Created Aug 26, 2015.

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