These surgeries are only recommended for those with a BMI of 40 and above or those with a BMI of 35 and above who have health complications due to excess weight. The surgeries can run anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 if paid out of pocket, though under many insurance policies, those that qualify for surgery will have full or partial coverage of the procedure.
The most common weight loss procedure is gastric banding. According to the website for Lap-Band, the top selling adjustable gastric band system, the procedure costs $15,000 to $20,000, and the average patients loses one and a half to two pounds per week post-op. Patients generally lose about 50 percent of his or her excess weight, says Dr. John Morton, director of Bariatric Surgery at Stanford University.
Duodenal switch is a less common but more effective procedure, according to Dr. Mitch Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital. The procedure involves cutting away a portion of the stomach and small intestines while preserving the duodenal valve that is the gateway between the stomach and the intestines. Roslin says that with a duodenal switch, patients lose 85 percent of excess weight by three years out.
For a 250 pound patient whose ideal weight is 150, a 50 percent excess weight loss with the band would be 50 pounds, which works out to $300 to $400 per pound. A duodenal switch is generally $20,000 to $30,000 so for a 85 percent excess weight loss in the same 250 pound patient, that would work out to $235 to $353 per pound.
Considering post-operative costs of medical care, cost of food, and varied insurance coverage, however, it's nearly impossible to assign a cost per pound for weight loss surgeries.
Though liposuction is not a weight-loss technique by any means, it does provide a means for getting rid of fat from targeted areas. Bottom-Line Estimate: $500 per pound.
With some diets, especailly any diet that leads to more than two pounds a week, weight loss is in part the result of a loss of other things besides fat, such as water or muscle mass, says Dr. Keith Ayoob, director of the Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. With liposuction, up to six to eight pounds of fat can be removed immediately from specific areas on the body, for the purpose of body contouring.
The average cost of procedure runs around $4,000 and up depending on which areas are worked on. Given a low price estimate, that works out to $500 per pound.
The downsides of liposuction, as compared to losing weight naturally, are many. While the fat removal takes place in one sitting, the full results of the procedure take months to see.
"Most patients will see 90 percent of their ultimate liposuction results with in one to three months after surgery. For the first few weeks after surgery there is postoperative swelling. When the surgeon closes the incisions with stitches, swelling usually resolves within 8 to 12 weeks," according to Liposuction.com, a consumer information website.
Patients can also be left with an irregular skin surface or dimpling following the procedure and as with any surgery, there are medical risks such as blood clot and in rare cases, death, associated with going under the knife.
Bottom-Line Estimate: $173 per pound when paired with low-fat diet.