Bariatric surgery refers to procedures that involve making changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight. There are a variety of weight loss procedures, including:
Weight loss surgery is an option when diet and exercise haven't worked for a patient or when a patient has serious health problems because of his or her weight.
If you’re considering bariatric surgery, you likely have a lot of questions about how it works, what your options are, whether you qualify, and whether it’s the best option for you. Our bariatric surgeons at St. Luke’s Health have the answers to your most frequently asked questions.
What is the success rate of bariatric surgery?
On average, patients lose 60% of their excess weight within 6 months of surgery and 77% within 12 months of surgery. This can make a world of difference in your health.
Obesity is linked to 40+ diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and at least 13 types of cancer.
The sooner you get started, the sooner you can experience the benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased fertility
- Alleviated joint pain
- Better heart health
- Easier breathing
- Diabetes improvement or resolution
- Reduced acid reflux
- Enhanced quality of life
Which is better: bypass or sleeve?
Gastric bypass surgery patients lose an average of 60-80% of their excess weight, while sleeve gastrectomy patients lose an average of about 50-70% of their extra weight. But each comes with benefits and risks.
Because a sleeve gastrectomy does not affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients like a gastric bypass would, it would be considered the safer procedure. However, it does not typically result in as much weight loss as a bypass.
For this reason, a sleeve may be recommended for patients with other complications, while a bypass might be recommended for patients with serious obesity-related conditions who need to quickly improve their health.
Eligibility and results for these procedures vary from patient to patient. Your doctor will consider your lifestyle, age, overall health, pre-existing conditions, and other factors to help determine the best option for you. Check out our infographic to compare the different procedures.
How do I qualify for bariatric surgery?
You may be a candidate for bariatric surgery if:
- Your body mass index (BMI) is 40+ (or 35+ with the presence of diabetes, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, or other serious complications of obesity).
- Previous attempts at weight loss have been unsuccessful.
- No medical or psychological conditions exist that would interfere with weight loss success.
- You are motivated and willing to commit to the lifestyle changes necessary for long-term success.
Even if you don't qualify for bariatric surgery, you may qualify for a non-surgical solution.
A candidate’s medical history would also need to be examined for signs of mental health issues, substance abuse, and any other physical or psychological conditions that could potentially complicate the surgery or its results.
Your surgeon may ask that you lose a certain number of pounds, depending on your condition before the procedure, to lower the risk of complications. Your care team will also make sure you are mentally prepared with emotional support, counseling if necessary, and a plan for your post-surgery life.
What is the safest form of weight loss surgery?
Each procedure has its own benefits and risks, and your surgeon will help you determine the best one for you based on your needs. In general, the less invasive and minor procedures are safer than more complex options.
The overall mortality rate for bariatric surgery is about 0.1%, which is lower than that of gallbladder surgery (0.7%) and hip replacement (0.93%). The risk of complications is around 4%. But overall, clinical evidence shows that the benefits of surgery far outweigh the risks.
“Unless the benefits outweigh the risks, I will not recommend surgery,” says Dr. Yong Choi, bariatric surgeon at the Weight Loss & Metabolic Institute at The Woodlands Hospital. “We weigh the pros and cons, and then we make a decision.”
How long is recovery from weight loss surgery?
Gastric bypass and gastric sleeve procedures are typically followed by two or three days of hospital recovery time. Following a gastric band surgery, the patient would typically leave the hospital within 24 hours.
In the case of less invasive procedures like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty or gastric balloons, most patients can leave the hospital within a few hours.
What can’t I eat after bariatric surgery?
Whether you have the gastric sleeve procedure or a temporary intragastric balloon placed in your stomach, you probably won’t be able to eat as much food as before without some discomfort. After surgery, avoid large meals and eat small portions slowly to prevent overeating or upsetting your stomach.
Depending on which procedure you receive, you may need to follow a strict diet from a dietician. If you undergo a surgery that affects how your body absorbs nutrients, such as gastric bypass, you would need to make sure you don’t stray from this diet in order to get all the nutrients you need.
Like any major surgery, bariatric surgery is a big decision that takes a lot of preparation. But it can dramatically change your health and your life for the better. If you’re seeking a long-term solution for obesity, schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health bariatric surgeon to learn more about your options.
If you’re interested in learning more about bariatric surgery, watch our online weight loss seminar.
MedicineNet | What Is the Safest Form of Bariatric Surgery? American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery | Fact Sheet