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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