What is Bariatric Surgery?

March 28, 2019

What is Bariatric Surgery?

Obesity, which is at epidemic proportions in the United States, is a significant risk factor for many conditions that can shorten one’s life, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep apnea and diabetes. Bariatric surgery is an option for treating obesity and tackling these health problems in patients who have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher. Patients with a BMI 30 to 35 should also be considered as candidates for bariatric surgery when they do not achieve substantial weight loss or improve their risks of disease by adopting lifestyle changes such as diet and increased exercise.

Gastric bypass surgery for weight loss is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon divides the stomach into a small upper section and a larger bottom section. The top section of the stomach is where food eaten goes, and since it is connected to the small intestine, the stomach, duodenum and first portion of the jejunum are bypassed and thus cannot absorb nutrients as they usually do. This procedure is both restrictive because the stomach is made smaller, and malabsortive because the bypassed segment of the gastrointestinal tract cannot absorb any nutrients. Patients feel satisfied although they are eating and absorbing less food. Patients must take vitamins and other nutrients.

Gastric sleeve surgery, or vertical sleeve gastrectomy, is the most common option nowadays. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon narrows the stomach into a thin vertical sleeve, about the size and shape of a banana. The remainder of the stomach is removed. This is a merely restrictive operation. The patient’s smaller stomach gets full quickly after eating smaller portions of food, so the patient is satisfied after consuming less calories. Digestion and absorption of nutrients is not impaired and the patient seldom needs any dietary supplements.

Before having surgery, enrollment in a bariatric surgery education program that includes nutrition and psychological counseling, is required. The program only prepares the patient for the surgery, it also prepares a patient for life after surgery. Patients who have had surgery need to adopt healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes, including regular exercise. Talk to your doctor about any concerns before having the surgery.

Interested in learning more about bariatric surgery?  Visit our Bariatric Center webpage.


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