Gastrointestinal surgery for obesity, also called weight loss surgery or bariatric surgery, alters the digestive process so as to achieve rapid weight loss.

The operations can be divided into three types:

  • restrictive
  • malabsorptive
  • combined restrictive & malabsorptive

Restrictive weight loss surgeries limit food intake by creating a narrow passage from the upper part of the stomach into the larger lower part, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold and slowing the passage of food through the stomach. Malabsorptive weight loss surgeries do not limit food intake, but instead exclude most of the small intestine from the digestive tract so fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed. Malabsorptive weight loss surgeries, also called intestinal bypasses, are no longer recommended because they result in severe nutritional deficiencies. Combined operations use stomach restriction and a partial bypass of the small intestine.

Benefits of weight loss surgery

 Image Source: Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF) - The Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography

 Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

  • High Blood Pressure can often be alleviated or eliminated by weight loss surgery
  • High Blood Cholesterol in 80% of patients can be alleviated or eliminated and in as little as 2-3 months post-operatively.
  • Heart Disease in obese individuals is certainly more likely to be experienced when compared to persons who are of average weight and adhere to a strict diet and exercise regimen. There is no hard and fast statistical data to definitively prove that weight loss surgery reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, however, common sense would dictate that if we can significantly reduce many of the co-morbidities that we experienced as someone that is obese, we can likewise that our health may be much improved if not totally restored.
  • Diabetes Mellitus can usually helped and based upon numerous studies of diabetes and the control of its complications, it is likely that the problems associated with diabetes will be arrested in their progression, when blood sugar is maintained at normal values.
  • Abnormal Glucose Tolerance, or Borderline Diabetes is even more likely reversed by gastric bypass. Since this condition becomes diabetes in many cases, the operation can frequently prevent diabetes, as well.
  • Asthma sufferers may find that they have fewer and less severe attacks, or sometimes none at all. When asthma is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is particularly benefited by gastric bypass.
  • Sleep Apnea Syndrome sufferers can receive dramatic effects and many within a year or so of surgery find their symptoms were completely gone, and they had even stopped snoring completely!
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease can be greatly relieved of all symptoms within as little as a few days of surgery.
  • Gallbladder Disease can be surgically handled at the time of the weight loss surgery if your doctor has cause to believe that gallstones are present.
  • Stress Urinary Incontinence responds dramatically to weight loss, usually by becoming completely controlled. A person who is still troubled by incontinence can choose to have specific corrective surgery later, with much greater chance of a successful outcome, with a reduced body weight.
  • Low Back Pain and Degenerative Disk Disease, and Degenerative Joint Disease can be considerably relieved with weight loss, and greater comfort may experienced even after as few as 25 lost pounds.
Weight loss surgery is a highly personal decision; it is also a medical decision. Your doctor should discuss the risks and help you measure the probability of benefits so that you can make an informed decision. 

Always get the advice from your attending surgeon on the best surgical option(s) for you. Information provided here is to give an understanding on the different surgery types available.

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