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What is Weight Loss Surgery? Types, Health Risks, Success Rates

Guide to surgical operations to
reduce severe clinical obesity
Obesity Surgery Advice

Guide to Weight Loss Surgery

Here are answers to a few popular questions about surgical operations to relieve obesity.

What is Bariatric Surgery?
How Prevalent is Obesity?
How Does Obesity Affect Health?
How Does Bariatric Surgery Help Weight Loss?
What is Stomach Banding?
What is Stomach Bypass?
What is Laparoscope-Assisted or Laparoscopic Surgery?
What Can You Eat After Bariatric Surgery?
How Successful is Bariatric Surgery?
What Are The Health Risks of Bariatric Surgery?
What Are The Health Risks of Gastric Banding?
What Are The Health Risks of Gastric Bypass?
How To Remove Loose Skin After Massive Weight Loss?
How To Qualify For Bariatric Surgery?
What are The Screening Procedures For Bariatric Surgery
What is The Cost of Bariatric Surgery?
Is Obesity Surgery Covered By Insurance?
More Information

What is Bariatric Surgery?

Weight loss surgery (WLS) is also referred to as "bariatric surgery", a term derived from the Greek word "baros" meaning "weight". It evolved out of cancer/ulcer operations involving the removal of part of the stomach or small intestine. As patients undergoing these operations lost weight afterwards, doctors developed the idea of using similar types of surgery to treat morbid obesity. Due to the current high levels of obesity among all US age-groups, and the lack of success with non-surgical weight loss methods, bariatric surgery is becoming a significant option for severely obese patients. Approximately 170,000 bariatric operations have been performed in 2005. At present, the average surgery patient is a 300-pound woman in her late 30s, but operations such as lap band procedure and roux-en-Y stomach bypass are now being performed on adolescents as young as 13 years. See also Bariatric Statistics

How Prevalent is Obesity?

An estimated 61.3 million American adults (30.5 percent) are obese. Severe obesity is also on the rise. An estimated 9.6 million adults have a body mass index (BMI) of 35-40, while 6 million American adults are morbidly obese (BMI 40+). (Source: US Census 2000; NHANES III data estimates)

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How Does Obesity Affect Health?

Excessive body fat (obesity), leads to a number of health risks including an increased risk of premature death. Obese patients (BMI 30+) are estimated to have a 50-100 percent increased risk of death from all causes, when compared with people of normal weight (BMI 20–25). The risk of premature death increases significantly in cases of morbid obesity (BMI 40+) and super-obesity (BMI 50+). Most of the increased mortality rate from obesity is due to co-morbidities like atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke. Other obesity-related health conditions include diabetes, hyperinsulimia, insulin resistance, obstructive sleep apnea, shortness of breath, asthma attacks, gastroesophageal reflux disease, low back pain, arthritis, heartburn, urinary incontinence, and venous disorders.

How Does Bariatric Surgery Help Weight Loss?

How weight loss surgery works is simple. The bariatric surgeon alters your digestive system (stomach and/or small intestine) to make it impossible for you to eat much food at one sitting without suffering unpleasant side effects such as dumping syndrome. This digestive side effect acts as a brake on calorie intake, and typically leads to significant loss of weight in the 2 years after surgery. There are two main types of weight loss surgery.

Guide To Stomach Banding

Adjustable gastric banding, or gastroplasty surgeries, (eg. lap-band, stomach stapling, or vertical banded gastroplasty) only alters the size of the stomach to restrict calories, hence it is called restrictive surgery. Stomach capacity is reduced from melon to egg size using special staples, or a silicone band. These restriction operations are easily reversible as they do not fundamentally alter the anatomy of the digestive system. The drawback is that patients find it easier to "cheat".

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Guide To Stomach Bypass

Gastric bypass operations (eg. roux-en-Y, biliopancreatic diversion, duodenal switch or fobi pouch) go further. Typically they involve a 2-stage process. First, the surgeon reduces the size of the stomach. Second, the first part of the small intestine is bypassed. This causes food to pass much more rapidly through the digestive tract and significantly reduces the amount of nutrients and calories that can be absorbed, which is why this type of operation is referred to as malabsorptive surgery. The point is, even if patients overeat, they will absorb fewer calories. This is why gastric bypass operations typically lead to greater weight loss than gastric stapling or banding.

What is Laparoscope-Assisted or Laparoscopic Surgery?

Bariatric operations may be conducted using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques using instruments connected to video monitors. These allow the surgeon to view the inside of the patient without having to make large incisions. Patients who undergo laparascopic operations typically experience fewer perioperative and post-operative health complications than patients who have traditional "open" surgery, and typically remain in hospital for 2-3 days, compared to 4-5 days for open surgery. They return to work within 2-3 weeks, compared to 4-6 weeks for traditional surgeries. Even so, both types involve the usual high risks associated with all major medical surgery. For articles, see: Laparoscopic WLS

What Can You Eat After Bariatric Surgery?

As a lap band or bypass surgery patient, you must be prepared for a drastic change of eating habits following your operation. Due to the small size of your new stomach pouch, you will feel full after a very small amount of food. Over-eating or eating too fast after a gastric bypass can trigger extremely unpleasant nausea, called "dumping syndrome". A typical diet after gastric reduction surgery starts with clear liquids only, then broadens gradually to include any liquids, then semi-solids, then a low-fat solid diet. This should become a permanent way of eating if you wish to achieve permanent weight loss. See also: After Weight Loss Surgery

How Successful is Bariatric Surgery?

Obesity surgery works successfully for many patients. Typical success rates range from 45-75 percent for stomach bypass and 40-60 percent for gastroplasty. Success rates for bariatric surgery far exceed those for conventional dieting, especially when patients take advantage of bariatric support groups or other types of weight loss help. Even so, it's clear that weight loss surgery is not successful for perhaps half of all patients. This is due usually to lack of patient commitment in complying with post-operative guidelines on eating and exercise. As a result, a significant percentage of less-committed patients regain weight 2-5 years after having surgery, especially those who have stomach banding or gastric-stapling. However, patients who are well motivated and who receive proper post-operative support, can achieve significant lasting weight loss. The effects of bariatric surgery on mortality are significant, in addition, patients can expect a number of health benefits. For example, hypertension is cured in about 50 percent of patients, while measurements of cholesterol and other blood fats show visible improvements. Type 2 diabetes is cured in 80 percent of diabetic patients while hyperglycemia and associated conditions such as hyperinsulimia and insulin resistance are improved. Sleep apnea is cured in about 75 percent of patients, shortness of breath is relieved in 75-80 percent of cases, while asthma attacks are significantly reduced, especially when associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Obesity surgery also relieves back pain, arthritis, heartburn, urinary incontinence, and venous disorders. See also: How Effective is WLS?

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What Are The Health Risks of Bariatric Surgery?

A bariatric operation carries the same risks and health complications as any other serious surgical procedure. Standard risk factors include: patient condition, expertise of the surgeon and anesthesiologist, as well as the quality of operating room services. Premature death occurs in about 1-2.5 percent of bariatric cases. In addition, there are a range of health risks according to the type of operation performed.

Health Risks of Stomach Banding

The most common complaints after banding surgery or stomach stapling include: (1) Hernia, in about 10-20 percent of patients. This risk is reduced in bariatric patients who undergo laparoscopic surgery. (2) Blood clots in about 1 percent of patients. (3) Infection in about 5 percent of patients. (4) Breakage of the gastric staple line, after gastroplasty. (5) Band slippage and saline after lap band or other forms of adjustable gastric banding. More rare complications include: bowel obstruction, stomal stenosis and marginal ulcers.

Health Risks of Stomach Bypass

The most common health dangers of gastric bypass surgery include: (1) The need for follow-up operations to correct complications (eg. hernias). These corrective procedures carry a higher health risk to the patient. (2) Nutritional deficiency after stomach bypass is not uncommon, especially deficiencies in nutrients like: iron, calcium, vitamin D and B12. See also: Nutrition After Gastric Bypass. (3) Gallstones develop in about one-third of bypass patients. (4) Bowel problems are very common after bypass.

How To Remove Loose Skin After Massive Weight Loss?

After gastric bypass or gastric banding, patients may lose up to 80 percent of their pre-operative excess weight. This weight loss can result in the appearance of a large amount of loose skin. Also, weight loss may not occur evenly throughout the body, leading to pockets of excess fat. The only solution for loose skin after bariatric surgery is another operation. Examples of common "plastic surgery" procedures include: tummy-tuck, arm-lift, breast-lift, male breast reduction, neck-lift, panniculectomy and thigh-lift. However, unlike bariatric operations, a plastic surgery operation is typically not covered by medical insurance as it is regarded as a "cosmetic" procedure.

How To Qualify For Bariatric Surgery?

Qualification for gastric weight loss surgery is typically governed by the National Institutes of Health Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. These state that you may be a candidate for obesity surgery only if: your body mass index exceeds BMI 40+, or if your BMI is 35+ and you have severe weight-related health problems. For more, see How to Qualify For Weight Loss Surgery

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Screening Procedures For Bariatric Surgery

Although your physical condition may conform to the above guidelines, this does not guarantee eligibility for weight loss surgery. Most obesity clinics operate a screening policy and only approve candidates who are (1) ready to make long-term changes in their eating, exercise and lifetyle habits; and (2) committed to long-term medical follow-up. This vetting procedure is essential to eliminate candidates who are unlikely to benefit from obesity surgery, due to their inability to manage the psychosocial factors of WLS.

Guide To Cost of Bariatric Surgery?

The cost of obesity surgery depends upon factors such as: the bariatric surgeon, the type of procedure, and the range of support services offered. Prices range from $25,000 upwards.

Is Weight Loss Surgery Covered By Insurance?

Not always. This is because medical insurance coverage differs according to which state you live in as well as the terms laid down by your individual insurance provider. Several states have legislation which requires insurers to offer obesity surgery for patients, providing it meets health criteria laid down by the National Institutes of Health. That said, getting insurance approval by yourself can be a time-consuming process. The best option is to work with your WLS clinic.

More Information About Bariatric Surgeries

For additional information and advice about how gastric surgery can reduce obesity, plus help finding a good clinic and board certified qualified weight loss surgeon, see:

American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP)
American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS)
Bariatric Studies
Obesity Surgery Research
Gastric Reduction Articles
Stomach Bypass Research
Stomach Gastroplasty
WLS Health Complications
Research Into Gastric Reduction Surgery

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Bariatric Surgery

Laparoscopic or open bariatric surgery, such as gastric banding or bypass is not an easy solution to morbid obesity and weight loss. It is a serious surgical procedure, involving health risks. To produce lasting weight loss it requires a long-term patient commitment to eating a healthy diet and following a regular program of physical exercise. Life-long use of nutritional supplements may also be necessary. So, before deciding, discuss your options fully with your doctor. © 2003-2017 Bariatric-Surgery.Info - Terms - Contact - Information - Resources