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Bariatric Surgery

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Bariatric surgery is a weight loss surgery that is used only in cases of obesity where other weight loss methods such as diet, exercise and behavior modification have proven ineffective. The two most common types of bariatric surgery are:

  • Gastric bypass - Which reduces the body’s absorption of food
  • Laparoscopic gastric banding - Which reduces the amount of food intake.

Neither of these types of weight loss surgeries involves the removal of body fat such as in liposuction.

Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery involves using surgical staples to form a completely new, smaller and separate stomach. The old stomach is stapled shut and the small intestine is rerouted into the new stomach sac bypassing both the old stomach and two-thirds of the intestines.

This results in less contact time for food in the digestive tract therefore less absorption of nutrients and calories. The lower opening from the new stomach to the small intestine is also smaller and slows the rate at which food empties from the stomach.

Distal gastric bypass surgery is a form of this procedure. It occurs when a portion of the stomach is actually removed before the small intestine is rerouted, but this type of surgery has a much higher risk of causing nutritional deficiencies.

Laparoscopic Gastric Banding

Laparoscopic gastric banding is a restrictive bariatric surgery procedure in which an inflatable silicone rubber band is surgically installed around a portion of the upper stomach squeezing it off from the larger lower part of the stomach thereby reducing its size and limiting the amount of food intake.

Laparoscopic refers to the miniature high resolution telescoping camera that is used in these surgeries to see inside the abdomen. This method makes the procedure less invasive. Because the camera allows the surgeon to see well into the body without a large opening, it typically means a reduced recovery time. Moreover, complications may be fewer when using this method. 

Although less invasive and involving a shorter recovery time, this type of bariatric surgery is not as effective for overall weight loss as gastric bypass surgery. Clearly, each method has its strengths and weaknesses

Facts to Consider before Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery should never be undertaken lightly and in most cases should only be considered for obesity patients when other gentler weight loss methods are not suitable. Obesity can and does kill people. Therefore, many medical insurance plans do cover the costs associated with bariatric surgeries. 

Without insurance, bariatric surgery can be incredibly expensive, running anywhere from around ten thousand to fifty thousand dollars in the United States. Wait times for weight loss surgery can also be considerable and in some cases patients are on hold for up to seven years.

What are the Risks of These Procedures?

There are of course always inherent risks associated with any surgical procedure and with bariatric surgery risks run the gamut from:

  • Internal bleeding to infections,
  • Organ laceration, 
  • Band slippage or breakage, 
  • Tears in the pouch and 
  • Ineffectiveness. 

With such risks associated with bariatric surgery it is important to choose your professional medical team carefully to ensure that you get the procedure you specifically need, and not just what a clinic or surgical team may have to offer.

Is Bariatric Surgery Effective for Weight Loss?

There is an up to 30% chance that after a long wait, large expenses, undergoing invasive surgery and all your high hopes, a bariatric surgery procedure will not be successful in achieving your goals to lose weight. That said, there is a 70% chance that it will be helpful. 

Remember that the surgery on its own is not the complete solution. As is the case with diet pills, you will need to follow a calorie restricted diet. Moreover, as you recover, you will also need to increase your daily activity level.