Weight Loss Surgery Overview


Weight loss surgery is becoming increasingly prevalent as a way for people to drop undesired body mass. While most methods of weight loss surgery are relatively safe and effective, surgery still isn’t for everyone. It’s recommended that you seek surgery as an option only if you are morbidly obese (with a body mass index of 40 or more for men 35 for women), or if you have obesity-related health issues, like diabetes or heart disease. It’s also recommended that you go with surgery only once you’ve tried other options and failed and if you fully understand the risks involved.

If you’ve decided weight loss surgery is the right option for you, here are a few of your options:


There are two general categories of weight loss surgery: restrictive and malabsorptive. Restrictive procedures work by physically restricting the size of the stomach and slowing digestion (Gastric banding, for example). Malabsorptive procedures are typically more invasive and change the way you take in food. During a malabsoptive surgery, part of the digestive tract may by bypassed or removed.

Types of Surgery

Adjustable Gastric Banding: Using an inflatable band, a surgeon squeezes the stomach into two sections. This physically restricts the amount of food patients can take in during a meal. All food eaten should be soft or well-chewed.

Pros: Banding is simpler and safer than gastric bypass. It’s minimally invasive and recovery time is usually short. Unlike other weight loss procedures, gastric banding is completely reversible.

Cons: Weight loss is less dramatic than more invasive methods. Patient may gain weight back down the road.

Risks: Vomiting from eating too fast, possible band slippage, band may become loose or leak, leading to further surgery, infection.

Sleeve Gastronomy: Up to 75% of the stomach is removed, leaving a little sleeve attached to the intestine. Sometimes this is just the first step in a multi-surgery process.

Pros: This procedure is relatively low-risk and effective. Patients lose an average of 50% of their excess weight. It doesn’t affect food absorption, so there is no risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Cons: Irreversible, long-term benefits and risks are still being evaluated.

Risks: Infection, leaking of sleeve, blood clots.

Gastric Bypass Surgery: A surgeon divides the stomach into two sections and connects the upper part of the stomach with the lower part of the small intestine, bypassing a section of the digestive tract. That leads to fewer calories being absorbed.

Pros: This procedure leads to swift, dramatic weight loss, and conditions related to obesity, like diabetes and heart issues, improve quickly. Most patients are able to keep the weight off long-term.

Cons: This procedure affects how the body absorbs minerals, so nutritional deficiencies and conditions like anemia and osteoporosis are a concern. Food may be dumped into the intestines without being properly digested.

Risks: Infection, blood clots, hernias, gallstones

Biliopancreatic diversion: Up to 70% of the stomach is removed and even more of the small intestine is bypassed.

Pros: Even faster and more dramatic weight loss than with gastric bypass. Remaining stomach is still large enough that eating large meals may still be possible.

Cons: Nutritional deficiencies, dumping

Risks: Highest risk of death associated with weight loss surgeries, with a 2 – 5% chance of death. Hernias are also a problem.

Remember, even if you have one of these procedures, you will still need to make permanent changes to how you eat, exercise, and live.


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