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Which Weight Loss Surgery is Right for You?

December 01, 2015

It can be incredibly difficult to lose weight, even with proper diet and exercise.

If you’ve followed your doctor’s orders and have tried everything possible to lose excess weight but still haven’t shed pounds, weight loss surgery may be a viable option if you meet certain criteria.

Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is for men and women who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40, or a BMI of at least 35 and other serious health conditions. are at least 80 to 100 pounds overweight or who have an obesity-related health issue, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease.

Recent data shows that nearly 200,000 people undergo weight loss procedures every year. The most common types of weight loss surgery are gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch. Each of them uses a different approach to help you lose weight. Each also comes with certain risks and potential side effects.

Weight loss surgery is still a serious medical procedure, one that you need to carefully consider before taking the plunge. If you’re a candidate for weight loss surgery, your doctor can help you decide which procedure will be best for your specific circumstance. But before you pursue this option, here are a few important things you need to know.

Types of Weight Loss Procedures

Gastric Bypass

Gastric bypass is the most common weight loss procedure in the U.S. It also is one of the most effective; some studies have shown that people who undergo gastric bypass shed 60 percent of their excess body weight and maintain that weight loss even 10 years afterward.

During gastric bypass, we use staples to create a small pouch the size of an egg that can hold only one ounce of food at a time. We also attach the small intestine to this pouch, which absorbs calories and nutrients. This change stimulates weight loss because you feel fuller sooner and consume less food.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomy is a minimally invasive procedure in which we remove up to 80 percent of the stomach to restrict the amount of food you can consume. We reduce the size of the stomach to about four ounces, leaving behind a tube-like structure that resembles a sleeve. You potentially could lose more weight with sleeve gastrectomy than with other weight loss procedures, such as gastric banding, in which a band is placed around the stomach to reduce its size. However, compared to other weight loss surgeries, sleeve gastrectomy is a relatively new procedure and there is not much literature out there about its effectiveness beyond about three years.

Duodenal Switch

During a duodenal switch, we remove part of the stomach. Only 4 to 6 ounces of the stomach remains, allowing food and calories to bypass the upper part of the intestine and instead be absorbed in the lower part of this organ, resulting in significant weight loss. Duodenal switch limits the amount of food you can eat in one sitting, but isn’t as restrictive as gastric bypass. It also reduces your appetite, which further promotes weight loss.

Risks & Key Things to Know

All medical procedures come with certain risks, and weight loss surgery is no different.

With gastric bypass, you may experience “dumping syndrome,” which can cause you to get sick if you consume foods high in fat or sugar. Dumping syndrome is a common side effect with some weight loss surgeries. With gastric bypass, you’ll also have to take vitamins and mineral supplements for the rest of your life to maintain proper nutrition, and you could regain weight if the stomach pouch expands.

Duodenal switch also has similar risks. You may have to use the bathroom more often than you did before surgery, which could result in strong smelling gas and stools, especially after you eat foods high in fat. You also could experience vitamin, mineral and protein deficiencies, and may have to take supplements on a regular basis to balance out these changes. Before deciding on a surgery, talk to your doctor about your weight loss goals and the post-operative risks. He or she can help you make the best decision.

Weight loss procedures aren’t a cure-all and don’t guarantee that you will never regain the weight again. For weight loss surgery to be successful long-term, you need to change your lifestyle and eating habits. After surgery, you should follow a healthy diet that contains enough lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated with plenty of water and minimize or avoid dehydrating beverages like alcohol and soda.

Weight loss surgeries have proven to significantly improve or resolve more than 40 obesity-related diseases, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. These procedures have led to an overall 40 percent reduction in mortality in some patients, and significant reductions in mortality from cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

However, it’s important to remember that though surgery can improve your quality of life and long-term health, it’s just one tool to accelerate weight loss. You still need to eat healthy and exercise, if you’re able. Doing these things will help you achieve your weight loss goal and maintain it for the rest of your life.