BMI Requirements & Eligibility For Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Last Updated on October 18, 2023

Determining BMI Eligibility for Gastric Sleeve Surgery

When it comes to weight loss surgery, there is a common misconception that only those on the highest end of the weight spectrum—who are upwards of 600-700 pounds—are eligible. The truth is, these are the most extreme examples of obesity, and in reality, one in three people walking down the street at any given time is eligible for weight loss surgery.

The Role of BMI in Weight Loss Surgery


We don’t often talk about eligibility in terms of weight alone. The reason for that is simple: talking about weight, without any additional context, doesn’t actually tell us much. Compare an NBA all-star who is 6ft7 and 200lbs to your grandmother who is 5ft3 and 200lbs. While they weigh exactly the same, their body composition is so vastly different that only one would likely be a candidate for weight loss surgery.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Admittedly, this measure is still flawed—it doesn’t account for musculature, or other important factors—but it’s the most accurate measure we have available to us today.

Historical Criteria for Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Historically, in order to qualify for weight loss surgery you had to meet one of two qualifiers: a BMI of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 or greater. These criteria were put in place over 30 years ago (and quite arbitrarily) before the development of the gastric sleeve procedure. Surgery was much more invasive, and complex; and because there was a much higher risk of complications, the option was reserved for those with a higher BMI.

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The Shift Towards Low BMI Weight Loss Surgery

Since then—and following many advancements in the field—we’ve realized that patients with lower BMI can also really benefit from this procedure. For that reason, we’re seeing a real push to lower these criteria so that a larger portion of the population is eligible. If someone with a BMI of 30 or more is telling us that their life is significantly impacted by their weight, who are we to deny them this effective solution? While health insurance companies and government health plans aren’t likely to cover the procedure with this newer criteria, many private centers are performing low BMI weight loss surgery with tremendous success.

Eligibility Criteria from Leading Health Centers

UCSF Health states that to be eligible for weight-loss surgery, individuals must:

  • Have a BMI of 35 or higher, or have a BMI between 30 and 35 and an obesity-related condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or severe sleep apnea.
  • Weigh less than 450 pounds.
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Duke Health mentions that insurance companies generally consider you eligible for weight loss surgery coverage if:

  • Your BMI is 40 or more OR
  • Your BMI is 35 to 40 AND you have a major health complication such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, debilitating joint pain, sleep apnea, uncontrolled GERD or acid reflux, or pulmonary hypertension.

Real-World BMI Examples

If you are a 5’4 female (the average height in North America) and you weigh 235lbs, your BMI is 40. If you weigh 205lbs, your BMI is 35. If you weigh 175 pounds, your BMI is 30.

If you are a 5’9 male (the average height in North America) and you weigh 270lbs, your BMI is 40. If you weigh 235lbs, your BMI is 35. If you weigh 205lbs, your BMI is 30.

FAQs – BMI Requirements For Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Does a 34 BMI qualify for weight-loss surgery?

Does BMI 30 qualify for surgery for weight loss?

  • Yes, some centers and private clinics offer weight loss surgery for individuals with a BMI of 30, especially if their quality of life is significantly impacted by their weight.
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What weight-loss surgery can I get with a BMI of 33?

  • With a BMI of 33, you might be eligible for gastric sleeve or other bariatric surgeries, especially if you have associated health conditions.

Can you get gastric sleeve at 200 lbs?

  • BMI Eligibility for gastric sleeve surgery is not solely based on weight but also on BMI and associated health conditions. A person weighing 200 lbs might be eligible depending on their height and overall health.

Do you qualify?

Because every patient is unique, we have created a qualification questionnaire to help you determine if you’re a good candidate for surgery. We also highly recommend speaking with a Bariatric Surgeon at Sleeve Clinic [A Top Rated Weight Loss Clinic In Toronto Ontario] about whether gastric sleeve weight loss surgery might be right for you.

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As one of the leading weight loss surgeons in Canada, Dr Gmora has gained a reputation for being a master of his surgical craft and producing outstanding weight loss results.