Obesity Surgery, or bariatric surgery, uses one of three methods to effect significant weight loss in obese patients. These methods are
- Food restriction
- A combination of food restriction and malabsorption
The surgical methods outlined above facilitate significant weight loss in patients for whom diet, exercise and medications have not worked despite the patients’ best efforts.
A surgical option can be pursued by people with a high BMI (body mass index) of 40 or greater. It is also an option if a person has a lower BMI if other health-threatening conditions are present, and a doctor recommends surgery for the health of the patient. While age is not a barrier to the surgery, patients typically range from 18-65 years old. Whether surgery is a possible solution, and which procedure is employed, is best made with the private counsel of a trusted bariatric surgeon and patient. There are risks inherent in surgery as well as benefits, and both of these considerations must be weighed seriously before surgery.
Losing a great deal of weight can have physical benefits for patients. It may help lessen the risks of heart disease and improve blood pressure. Obesity surgery may result in the elimination of diabetes medications. Conditions relating to acid reflux may improve as well as those related to sleep apnea.
Overall, losing up to fifty percent of body weight can result in an increased energy level and significant relief from joint and back pain. Importantly, patients report that they experience an improvement in outlook and emotional well-being.
Surgery is not without risk. The American Society of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgeons report a mortality rate of less than .1% nationally for obesity surgery procedures. This risk should be weighed against the comorbid conditions that are life-threatening and closely associated with obesity including liver problems, heart disease, respiratory illnesses and diabetes.
During and post-surgical complications include bleeding, blood clots and infection. Other complications are hernias, diarrhea, constipation, anemia, gallstones and obstructions. Your surgeon will go over the possible complications with you during your pre-operative consultations. Make sure you ask your surgeon the chances of experiencing complications based on their previous surgeries. While not common, complications do occur and you will want to know how your surgical team addresses complications.
Weight loss after surgery can be quite significant amounting to 8 to 10 pounds per month or more. Your success after surgery will be determined by your adherence to a food plan prescribed by your doctor (both before and after surgery) which is designed to help facilitate weight loss, help the body heal, and imprint healthier eating habits that will serve you well the rest of your life. You will be encouraged to increase your physical activity as you are able towards pursuing activities that you might not have been able to participate in before surgery.