Who Needs Bariatric Surgery And How It’s Performed?

October 26, 2020

Bariatric surgery is a term used to describe several types of weight-loss surgeries including gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy surgery. 

These medical procedures involve making alterations to your digestive system to encourage weight loss. 

This type of surgery is usually only recommended by a healthcare practitioner when diet and exercise have failed to achieve the desired results or when there are serious health problems you are experiencing because of your weight. Some of these surgeries alter how much you can eat, while others limit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Sometimes some surgeries do both of these things simultaneously.

Why Are These Surgeries Done?

Bariatric surgeries are done to help the patient lose excess weight. It can also be recommended by a doctor if there are weight-related health issues with potentially life-threatening effects. Health problems that may be considered valid reasons for bariatric surgery include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke or heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

It is important to note that even when the above health problems exist, doctors tend to first recommend making improvements to your exercise and diet habits. Only when this has failed do doctors typically turn to bariatric surgeries.

Who Is Bariatric Surgery For?

There are many reasons a doctor might suggest a bariatric surgery depending on the particular situation their patient is experiencing as well as physical factors. As a general rule, bariatric surgery could be an option for someone whose body mass index (BMI) is over 40 (this is medically defined as extreme obesity). If your BMI is between 35 and 39.9, which is medically defined as obesity, and you are also experiencing one or more of the health problems listed above, you may also qualify for certain types of bariatric surgery.

This being said, body mass index is not the only factor doctors and surgeons consider. There are medical guidelines that must also be met to qualify for weight-loss surgeries. One major factor is your commitment to making healthy lifestyle changes both pre and post-surgery. Typically treatment plans do not include only the surgery. You will likely have to follow up with a medical professional regarding nutrition, diet, exercise, lifestyle, behavior, and medical conditions. 

Potential Risks And Complications

As with any medical procedure, there are risks and complications you need to consider. No surgery is considered 100% safe because things can go wrong. Infections, excessive bleeding, negative reactions to anesthesia, leaks in your gastrointestinal system, lung or breathing problems, and blood clots are all things that could happen during or post-surgery. Death from bariatric surgery is rare, but it can happen.

There are longer-term risks as well. Sometimes people need revision surgery or procedures because of how their body reacts to the surgery or how successful the surgery was. Acid reflux, bowel obstruction, vomiting, dumping syndrome, ulcers, gallstones, malnutrition, hernias, and low blood sugar are all possible effects of bariatric surgery. Make sure that you speak to your doctor in-depth about the possible risks and side effects for you and your particular situation.

How To Prepare For Bariatric Surgery

Likely your healthcare professional will give you specific instructions on what needs to be done before and after your surgery. You will likely have to undergo various lab tests and exams. You might also have limits on what you can eat and drink, and what medications you can take leading up to the surgery. You might be asked to start an exercise regime and stop using tobacco products. Of course, depending on your particular situation and what type of surgery you are receiving, the preparations will be slightly different. A patient who will be undergoing lap band surgery will have different instructions than a patient undergoing biliopancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch. More than likely, you will also need to prepare for your recovery time.

What The Procedure Involves

Every type of bariatric surgery is slightly different, but overall, the surgeries are performed in a hospital with general anesthesia. The surgery usually takes several hours, after which you’ll wake up in the recovery room. You’ll be monitored post-surgery, sometimes for a few days within the hospital. Recovery time is different for everyone and depends on many factors. You will almost certainly not be able to return to work right away.

With the above information in mind, you are on your way to better understanding bariatric surgery and the people it is designed to help. As with any medical information online, always be sure to speak to your medical professional about any choices you are considering making. There is no one size fits all with medicine or surgery and you should always be looking for the best option for you and your situation.

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