Read below to learn more about the benefits of weight loss surgery, weight loss procedures, the associated risks, and life after surgery.
Benefits of Surgery
Pros and Cons
Losing a significant amount of weight may have a major impact on your overall health. Weight loss surgery may improve or even resolve several obesity-related conditions, including: diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, sleep apnea, some cancers, bone and joint issues, and overall quality of life.
But before you decide to pursue surgical weight loss, it’s best to consider all of the pros and cons to the procedure.
Advantages of Surgical Weight Loss
The patient may eat and absorb less food
The patient’s appetite may decrease
The patient may experience a prolonged sense of fullness after eating
A laparoscopic procedure is minimally invasive, so that it reads Robotic and Laparoscopic procedures are minimally invasive and can mean minimal incisions and other benefits
A patient may lose a large percent of excess body weight over a short period of time
Can put you on the road to a healthier and more active life
Disadvantages of Surgical Weight Loss
Most procedures are permanent
The procedure requires stomach cutting and stapling, some require stapling and intestinal rerouting
The procedure requires the patient’s discipline and commitment to avoid nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition
Procedures and Associated Risks
There are numerous different surgical weight loss procedures that a patient may pursue. Some are restrictive procedures that reduce the size of a patient’s stomach so that he or she feels full, while eating less food. Other procedures change how a patient’s digestive system works so that fewer calories are absorbed.
You and your doctor will discuss which bariatric surgery procedure is best for you to produce the best results that come with the fewest amount of risks.
The three most common surgical procedures are:
Gastric Bypass (also known as Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass)
A smaller stomach pouch is created by dividing it from the rest of the stomach with your small intestine connected to the new pouch. With this procedure, patients often lose 60 to 80 percent of excess body weight and will experience hormonal changes that further contribute to weight loss.
With this procedure, about 80 percent of your stomach is removed, leaving behind a pouch in the shape of a banana. The fundus, which produces much of the hunger hormone called ghrelin, is removed along with the stomach, which can help regulate appetite after surgery.
This surgery, also called biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, is more complex than the others. The duodenal switch involves two separate surgeries. The first is similar to gastric sleeve surgery. The second surgery redirects food to bypass most of your small intestine. The surgeon also reattaches the bypassed section to the last part of the small intestine, allowing digestive juices to mix with food.
All surgeries, including weight loss surgeries, may potentially impose immediate health concerns and / or long-term health risks, and in some cases, death. It is important to understand those before committing to surgery.
Short-term risks may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Lung or respiratory problems
- Gastrointestinal system leaks
Long-term risks may include:
- Bowel obstruction
- Dumping syndrome, causing diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Gall stones
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia development)
- Stomach perforation
Life After Surgery
What to Expect After Surgery
After your weight loss surgery, you’ll need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. Here’s what you can expect in the days and weeks after your procedure:
- Immediately after surgery, patients usually receive fluids through an IV. You’ll be given liquids, such as broth or clear juice, to drink. However, your diet will progress based on your individual situation and your doctor’s recommendations. Your doctor will recommend that you get up and begin walking as soon as possible. Walking as soon as you are able – even for short distances – is a very important part of post-operative recovery and is typical with many different types of surgeries.
- For the first few weeks of surgery, depending on your doctor’s recommendation, you will follow a specific diet that consists of 5 stages.
- After your surgery, it’s important to make sure you’re eating adequate protein for healing and overall health. It’s necessary to eat protein before other foods, especially early on in the post-surgery phase.
- You will start a vitamin regimen as soon as your doctor recommends it. Remember to have protein powder and protein supplements on hand when you get home.
- You may be advised to avoid lifting heavy items for about 4 to 6 weeks, depending on your doctor’s instructions.
- Gradually increase your physical activity as tolerated. It may take several weeks to return to your previous levels of stamina. Walking is a great way to get started, and movement after surgery helps reduce the risk of problems while you recover. Ask your doctor about how to build up to a more active exercise plan.
- Follow-up visits are usually scheduled for one (1) week, two (2) weeks, six (6) weeks, six (6) months, and one (1) year post-operatively, and then annually from that point on.
- It’s important that you are in contact with not only your weight loss surgeon, but your primary care physician as well. Make sure they are partners in your care so that they can adjust your medications after surgery.
Sources: American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health
Weight loss surgery is generally designed for those with a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 40, or equal to or greater than 35 with serious co-morbidities. Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding with the Lap Band® is also FDA-approved for weight loss surgery in people with a BMI of 30 to 35 who have at least one obesity-related condition. Weight loss surgery is considered safe, but like many types of surgery, it does have risks. Consult with your physician about the risks and benefits of weight loss surgery.