Today, more than 73 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. This is in stark contrast to how we looked and felt just a few decades ago. From the 1960s to today, obesity rates skyrocketed, as did the cases of weight-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
For many Americans, an innovative and sometimes life-saving treatment is known as bariatric surgery can help solve troubling weight issues. But what is bariatric surgery and is it really good for your health?
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is a class of surgical procedures designed to help chronically obese patients lose weight. It is commonly performed in partnership with other treatments such as exercise and diet plans. These surgeries can be lifesaving when you have serious weight-related health problems.
There are three primary types of bariatric surgery available today:
- Gastric bypass
- Sleeve gastrectomy
- Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS)
Gastric bypass, also called Roux-en-Y, is the most commonly performed bariatric surgery. During this procedure, your surgeon will create a smaller pouch about the size of a walnut from the stomach and connect it directly to the small intestine. This limits the absorption of calories. Only a small amount of food can be eaten at a time because the stomach is so small. Gastric bypass has been shown to reduce serious weight-related diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Sleeve gastrectomy, sometimes called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, can be performed laparoscopically in some cases. During this procedure, the doctor makes small incisions in the upper abdomen and uses small instruments to remove 80 percent of the stomach. What’s left is a banana-shaped tube that holds much less food than a normal stomach.
Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS) is one of the least commonly performed bariatric surgeries. The process includes a sleeve gastrectomy, where about 80 percent of the stomach is removed. The surgeon leaves the pyloric valve in place, which allows food to pass through the stomach to the small intestine, as well as the duodenum, which is the small section of the intestine that connects to the stomach. During the second part of this complex surgery, the shorter part of the intestine is attached to the new, smaller stomach. Weight loss with this surgery can be dramatic.
No matter the type of bariatric surgery they receive, those seeking treatment for weight-related health problems see significant benefits from these kinds of procedures.
How Can Bariatric Surgery Help My Health?
Dr. Chetan J. Patel, MD, FACS, board-certified general surgeon, is trained to perform bariatric surgery in a way that reduces your weight dramatically and, in turn, has many positive effects on your health due to the many chronic illnesses excess weight can cause. Given that these conditions have a critical impact on life expectancy, sometimes a procedure like bariatric surgery is a life-saving measure.
Bariatric surgery is considered a last resort for patients for whom diet and exercise have failed to help them lose weight. Weight gain is a significant contributor to serious and chronic illnesses such as:
- Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)
- Fatty liver disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Some cancers, including colon, endometrial, and breast cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
When a patient is chronically obese, with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 35, their chances of achieving normal body weight consistently is less than one percent. You or someone you know may have tried every diet imaginable, every possible exercise plan, and anything else you can think of to lose weight. However, the data shows us that the cards are stacked against you. That’s where bariatric surgery can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of death from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Bariatric surgery has been proven to lower your risk of dying from any cause by more than 40 percent. The science also shows that 90 percent of bariatric surgery patients lose half of their excess body weight—and keep it off long-term.
The benefits of bariatric surgery include living longer with long-term weight loss. For many patients, this is the best option to improve their health.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Bariatric Surgery?
All surgeries have risks, and bariatric surgery is no exception. However, the risk of death from bariatric surgery is only 0.1 percent and the likelihood of major complications is about one percent.
In addition to the risks associated with any surgical procedure, rapid weight loss that follows bariatric surgery sometimes requires additional surgery to remove excess skin. Post-surgery weight loss may be gradual enough that your skin can slowly adjust, but some people require cosmetic surgery to remove loose skin.
Another reality connected to bariatric surgery is that you’ll still need a gym membership. Your doctor will work closely with you on a post-surgical diet to help you adjust to your new, smaller stomach. However, once you’re cleared to resume physical activity, you should ideally work your way up to one hour of exercise six days per week to ensure the success of your weight loss plan.
Ultimately, the risks of doing nothing at all when you are overweight are far greater than the risks of weight loss surgery. In our experience, most patients say if they had to do it all over again, they would choose to undergo bariatric surgery. After the surgery and the weight loss that accompanies it, chances are, you’ll feel better and end up being more active.
How Do I Know If I’m a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?
You may be a candidate for bariatric surgery if your body mass index is 35 or higher and you have a serious health issue related to your weight gain. The team at Orlando Minimally Invasive Surgery will work closely with you to discuss your goals and conduct screenings to determine if bariatric surgery is right for you.
If you’re struggling with weight and accompanying chronic illness, there is help available. Contact us to talk about your options.