Home » Considering Weight Loss Surgery? Here’s What You Need to Know

Considering Weight Loss Surgery? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Grace Sianna
scalpel wrapped in measuring tape for weight loss surgery

Americans have set a troubling new record: Over 70% of Americans are now overweight or obese. Despite fitness being a multibillion dollar industry in the U.S. and millions of people adding weight loss as a new year’s resolution every January, Americans’ high-consumption lifestyles mean waistlines are continuing to expand.

And with expanding waistlines comes the unavoidable health problems. From diabetes to high blood pressure to amputations and even cancer, overweight and obesity can have serious and sometimes deadly impacts on your health.

But telling an obese person to hit the gym or forcing him/her to make a sudden diet change usually doesn’t help. Without a proper plan by a professional nutritionist, sudden restriction of calories can cause dizziness, gastrointestinal issues, and cravings, which will drastically increase the chances of failing the diet. When it comes to exercising, obese people should work with a personal trainer who is extremely knowledgeable in the specific area of helping obese people lose weight. Not only are regular workout programs not designed for obese people, they can cause injury and other health problems since obese people are unlikely to know the limits of their physical capabilities.

For those who are seeking to take drastic action for drastic changes, weight loss surgery is a highly effective option to lose weight and get healthier.

Bariatric Surgical Procedures: An Overview

Formally known as bariatric surgery, weight loss surgeries involve various mechanisms, including rerouting your stomach and intestines or restricting the volume of food your stomach can hold, causing a reduction in your appetite and eventually significant weight loss.

There are various types of bariatric surgery procedures, and it is up to you to discuss your candidacy and choice of procedure with your doctor.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomies are the most common weight loss procedures performed today. The procedure involves removing the approximately 80% of the top of your stomach, leaving just a banana-shaped tubular pouch.

man holding scissors against belly fatSince the new pouch is much smaller than before, your food consumption will be significantly reduced. The best advantage of the sleeve gastrectomy appears to be that it has beneficial effects on your gastrointestinal (GI) hormones which change the way the brain responds to food, suppressing hunger and reducing appetite.

The advantages of sleeve gastrectomy include no requirement of foreign objects or bypass, a short hospital stay of 2 days, and rapid weight loss of up to 100 pounds during the first year after the procedure. Unfortunately, like many surgical procedures, sleeve gastrectomies are irreversible. It also carries the risk of causing vitamin deficiencies in the long run, and has an increased risk of complication compared to some other types of procedures like the gastric band surgery described below.

Gastric Band Surgery

This procedure is also called Laparoscopic gastric banding, “Lap Band,” or “Realize band.” It involves placing a silicone ring with an inflatable balloon in the center around the stomach’s top portion, thereby creating a two-compartment stomach. The person would only eat enough food to fill the small pouch above the band, and over time, the food would pass through the band to the stomach’s lower portion. Adjustments can be made to the band by inflating or deflating the balloon.

The adjustable gastric band surgery is commonly performed on patients who have a BMI of greater than 35 or have obesity-related medical conditions and have failed to achieve weight loss with non-surgical programs or methods. Advantages of the adjustable gastric band surgery include no cutting or rerouting involved; ability to be performed as an outpatient procedure; reversibility and adjustability; weight loss of 40-60%, reduction in the volume of food held by stomach; and low risk of vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Despite these benefits, the number of patients opting for the adjustable gastric band surgery has declined sharply because there are significant long-term health risks. It requires a strict compliance to postoperative lifestyle and dietary changes; has the highest rate of having to re-do the surgery for implant malposition and erosion; and fails to produce more than 50% excess weight loss in many patients. Only about 20% of patients were said to have had great results from this procedure.

Gastric Bypass

Formally called the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, this procedure is often referred to as the “gold standard” of weight loss surgeries. The procedure involves first dividing your stomach into two, a top section that resembles a small pouch, and a lower section that will no longer receive food after the division occurs.

Then the surgeon also divides the small intestine, and he/she will pull up the jejunum, or the bottom end, and connect it to a small hole in the new “pouch.” The other end of the divided small intestine will be joined to a portion further down the organ, which will result in a shape resembling the letter “Y.”

gloved hand holding scalpel against stomach model for bariatric surgeryThis procedure can result in a huge weight loss, averaging between 60-80% of the patient’s excess weight. Like the other procedures, it also limits your food consumption, and has the advantage of having a beneficial effect on gastrointestinal hormones that improves satiety and reduces weight.

Because gastric bypass is a more complicated procedure that involves dividing, rerouting, and connecting various parts of your digestive anatomy, the complication rates are higher. A patient undergoing gastric bypass will have to stay in the hospital longer will have to adhere to strict dietary recommendations and take vitamin/mineral supplements for the rest of his/her life.

Weight loss surgeries are not a cure-all for unhealthy lifestyles and about 50% of the patients who undergo the procedures gain a small amount of the weight back. However, most patients keep the weight off long-term. You will most likely deal with an intense recovery process with strict compliance requirements and follow-up appointments. But if you’re willing to commit to making drastic changes to your diet and lifestyle, a bariatric surgery can be a great option for you especially if you’ve tried otherweight loss methods before and failed.

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