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Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is a major procedure that decreases the size of the stomach allowing patients to lose a significant amount of weight because of reduced food intake.

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It is a permanent surgical procedure that requires a lifetime commitment to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Weight loss surgery helps patients lose weight quickly and improve their overall well-being and self-esteem. People who are significantly overweight despite years of diet and exercise, or those with medical problems related to obesity, may be ideal candidates for weight loss surgery. Gastric bypass surgery, lap-band surgery and the gastric sleeve procedure are the three most common types of weight loss surgery.

During gastric bypass surgery, the bariatric surgeon staples the small upper part of the stomach, separating it from the rest of the stomach. The result is a small stomach pouch which helps control food intake. A part of the small intestine is attached to the stomach pouch so that food can bypass the duodenum. The bypasses of the small intestine decrease the absorption of food nutrients. These methods restrict food intake considerably and diminish hunger to promote healthy weight loss. Patients will find that the majority of the weight loss is evident within one year after surgery. Possible complications of gastric bypass include: intestinal obstruction, pulmonary embolus, internal hernia, leakage, post-surgery bleeding and even death. A crucial component of the lap-band method is its adjustability. The band is connected to a port, which enables the device to be inflated over time to accelerate the weight loss process.

During lap-band surgery, the surgeon uses a laparoscope to visualize placement of the lap-band (a specialized silicone band). The lap-band is placed around the top of the stomach and secured in place with sutures, making a very small stomach pouch. The port is secured underneath the skin on the top part of the abdomen. When patients eat, they feel satisfied very quickly as food slowly moves from the smaller pouch to the lower part of the stomach and into the digestive tract. Lap-band patients usually lose 50% to 60% of their excess body weight within two years after the procedure. Complications associated with this procedure include: slipping of the band, gastric perforation, gastric erosion, vomiting and impossible band placement.

Gastric sleeve resection is a comparatively new technique when it comes to bariatric surgery. It is generally used to safely kick-start the surgical weight loss process in people who are too ill or obese to undergo more invasive weight loss surgeries. The procedure is typically indicated in persons who are considered super obese, meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 60. Using a keyhole approach, gastric sleeve resection surgery includes the use of a laparoscopic tool that is inserted through several tiny incisions. During a gastric sleeve resection, the surgeon removes nearly 60 percent of the stomach so that it takes the form of a sleeve or tube. The small sleeve-shaped stomach is then closed with staples.

The procedure is sometimes followed by a gastric bypass or duodenal switch after the patient has lost a considerable amount of weight. The second surgery may occur within six to 18 months after the gastric sleeve resection, depending on the degree of weight loss. Possible complications during surgery include: blood clots, wound infection, and leaking of the stomach sleeve. Patients should note that weight can be gained over time as the stomach gradually stretches.

Weight loss surgeries are complex procedures performed under general anesthesia in the hospital. The surgery can last one to four hours, followed by a one to seven day stay in the hospital.

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