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Bariatric Surgery: Making the Right Choice for You

By Yong Choi, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Chief Medical Officer and Bariatric Surgeon at St. Luke's Health—The Woodlands Hospital and James Dickerson, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Bariatric Surgeon with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group and The Woodlands Hospital

July 03, 2023 Posted in: Leadership
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Obesity is a complex medical condition that affects more than 10 million Texans. If you have this condition, you’re not alone, and you probably know how it can impact your overall health and quality of life. Obesity is also challenging to manage. As disused in an earlier article, many factors can lead to obesity—some within your control, and others not so much. Only about one percent of people with severe obesity can reach and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise alone. 

If that’s you, bariatric surgery could offer the solution you need to lose weight and keep it off for good. Bariatric surgery isn’t an easy way out. It requires a lifelong commitment to your health. But the surgery is a common, safe, and effective treatment option for overcoming the challenges of obesity.

When to Consider Bariatric Surgery

Surgery should be the last stop in weight loss treatment, not the first. Before bariatric surgery, you must have tried to lose weight through diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes are essential to obesity treatment, even with medicine or surgery. Making these changes first helps you build the skills to keep the weight off if you do have the treatment. 

Medication or surgery is considered when diet and exercise isn’t enough. Prescription drugs may affect how your body absorbs food. They may also make you feel full faster or less hungry. You may need different treatments if another medical condition is causing or contributing to obesity. 

Bariatric surgery can be a powerful tool in your weight loss toolbox. In general, bariatric surgery is considered for people who:

  • Are 100 pounds or more overweight

  • Have a BMI of 40 or more

  • Have a BMI of 35 or above and another obesity-related condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea

     

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Weight Loss

The St. Luke’s Health (SLH) bariatric team offers comprehensive care and solutions at all stages of your weight loss journey, including the most up-to-date bariatric surgery options. Designed with success in mind, our program is designated as a Comprehensive Metabolic and Bariatric Center of Excellence by the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

The SLH bariatric care team takes a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to weight loss surgery. To ensure you’re ready for the procedure and motivated to make a lifelong commitment to your health, you’ll meet with multiple specialists. Before the day of surgery, you will meet with a nutritionist, psychologist and surgeon. 

You will also watch a video created by our team about bariatric surgery. Patients with heart or lung conditions will also meet with their primary care doctor or specialists to get clearance for surgery. Most patients are ready for bariatric surgery one to two months after their first appointment with our bariatric care team.

Types of Bariatric Surgery

There are several types of bariatric surgeries. However, nearly all performed in the U.S. today are either gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy. Both procedures are extremely effective for long-term weight control. 

During a gastric bypass, the surgeon makes a small pouch out of the stomach. This pouch is then connected to the intestine. The smaller pouch helps you feel full sooner. Bypassing a portion of the intestines also lowers the number of calories absorbed. This surgery is also called a Roux-en-Y because the shape of the stomach and intestine after the surgery looks like a “Y.”

In sleeve gastrectomy, about three-quarters of the stomach is removed. The remaining stomach is roughly the shape and size of a banana. A smaller stomach limits how much food you can eat and helps you feel full faster.

All bariatric surgeons at SLH use minimally invasive techniques. This means they perform procedures through tiny incisions less than a half-inch long. After surgery, most of our patients are up walking that evening and home the next day. Other benefits of minimally invasive surgery are:

  • Decreased pain after surgery

  • Less risk of infection

  • Lower risk of hernia

  • Quicker return to your regular routine

     

Bariatric surgery is an excellent option for many people. Still, not everyone is a candidate. Our team can work with you to determine if surgery is an option and which type would be the best fit. Meeting with a bariatric surgeon to get more information doesn’t mean you have to have surgery. It can be helpful to learn about your options to ensure you’re making the right choice for you.

Revision Surgeries and Second Opinions

If you previously had bariatric surgery and are regaining weight or having post-surgery issues like reflux, you might be a good candidate for a bariatric revision surgery. Often, people who benefit from revision surgeries had an older type of procedure, such as a gastric band. There have been several advancements in bariatric surgery, and a revision may be the solution you’ve been looking for.

Our care team is also happy to provide a second opinion if you’ve talked with another bariatric surgery team in the past and still have questions. The benefits of bariatric surgery and other weight loss treatments are most effective when you fully understand your options and are committed and motivated to make necessary changes.

Life After Bariatric Surgery

After bariatric surgery, most patients see rapid changes in their body and health, including improvement in or complete remission from chronic conditions. More than 90 percent of patients with diabetes and sleep apnea achieve remission, as do about 75 percent of people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Patients also experiences hormonal changes after bariatric surgery that boost metabolism and regulate weight.

Even with these changes, weight loss and management are a life-long commitment. Lifestyle changes are at the core of long-term success. A balanced diet and regular exercise are essential. At SLH, you won’t face these changes alone. During the first year after surgery, we’ll meet with you a minimum of four times to track progress and address any concerns. Beyond the first year, we see patients at least once a year. Our door is always open to patients anytime, no matter how long it’s been since your surgery.

Plus, our program offers a range of supportive services to help you reach your goals, deal with bumps in the road and live the life you imagine for yourself, including:

  • A closed Facebook page that allows you to privately meet with others like you

  • Bimonthly support groups

  • Nutritional education and support

  • Psychological counseling

Reclaim Your Life

Bariatric surgery is life changing. The most common comment we hear from patients is, "Thank you for giving me my life back." 

Severe obesity is not your fault. It’s not about willpower. We know it’s a complex medical condition that needs treatment like any other medical condition. Our bariatric care team is here to show you your options and help you reclaim your life. 

Get started with a free, online St. Luke’s Health weight loss seminar.

 

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