Ted Tredgill has been hesitant for years about bariatric surgery, and the treatment option for obese people was considered the most effective way to lose weight և, most importantly, to avoid it.

On the one hand, the 54-year-old former college baseball player knew the dangers of lowering his weight by 350 pounds, the problems caused simply by playing sports. On the other hand, it seemed like “a pretty big procedure – removing a piece of belly for Pete.”

Threadgill then became infected with COVID-19, which puts people at greater risk for obesity.

At HoustonChronicle.com. Landslide Houston Missions’s ambulance misses for high, unexpected bills

Tredgill survived, but it was a terrible few weeks. Double pneumonia, temperature 104, difficulty breathing, making it difficult to just lie in bed, sleep from which he woke up wet. “He finally recovered, the decision to undergo bariatric surgery was pointless,” he said.

“COVID was the last straw, the ultimate sign that I’re not waterproof,” said Tredgill, chief executive of the chemical distribution company at The Woodlands. “I thought bariatric surgery would permanently reduce the weight I had decided I could not handle on my own.”

Barrier surgery, which is considered by doctors to be underutilized, is gaining popularity because of COVID-19, both among obese people who have struggled with the disease and those who do not want to but want to improve their chances. In Houston, across the country, industry experts have reported on increased procedures and advice on whether stakeholders will be good candidates.

Research is already showing the benefits of the COVID-19 procedure. A study by the Cleveland Clinic this month found that obese patients who had previously had bariatric surgery were 25 percent less likely to be hospitalized and needed intensive care than obese patients who did not have surgery.

It is difficult to obtain solid data on the recent increase in the use of the procedure, especially among researchers, in part because bariatric surgery was one of the selective procedures discontinued in the first months of the epidemic. When elective surgeries are resumed, the insurance company’s requirement that patients first undergo weight loss regimens usually means that it may take months before surgery is performed. Many of these patients are still in the process.

However, the data of the insurance company show the trend. UnitedHealth’s Optum health plan saw a 25 percent increase in enrollment in bariatric surgery over the summer, and permits for Cigna procedures increased by 10 percent from 2019 to almost 40 percent in the spring. The rise came amid fears of COVID-19, which scared many patients from visiting hospitals, a phenomenon that has led to an increase in deaths from heart attack and stroke.

“I have definitely seen an increase in COVID,” said Dr. Felix Spiegel, a bariatric surgeon at the Herman Memorial. “In May-June, I would say that 10 to 20 patients came for counseling because of their perception of the disease, the patients who specifically mentioned COVID.”

The latest theory is that COVID-19 is especially difficult for obese people because fat is full of ACE2 receptors, proteins that the coronavirus uses to enter cells and reproduce. In other words, the more obese people are, the more receptors they will have with COVID, the more likely they are to have a high viral load.

At another level, COVID-19 has a stronger effect on obese people due to the effects of being overweight. It reduces lung capacity, COVID-19’s favorite battlefield. It is associated with diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea, which are also risk factors for COVID-19. It introduces harmful substances into the bloodstream that reduce the immune function needed to fight viruses. And it predisposes humans to the formation of blood clots, which can trigger COVID-19.

The doctors did not have to take the lessons home with a hammer.