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What You Need to Know About Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery is a serious surgical procedure that decreases the size of the stomach, reduces food intake and can enable you to lose a significant amount of weight. It is a permanent procedure that requires a lifetime commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Bariatric surgery not only helps you to lose weight, but can help improve your overall health, well-being and self-esteem.

Types of Weight Loss Surgery

Gastric bypass surgeryLap-Band surgery and the gastric sleeve procedure are the three most widely practiced types of weight loss surgery.

During gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon staples the smaller, upper part of the stomach, separating it from the rest of the stomach. The net result is that the amount of food you can eat is reduced. The small intestine is rerouted and connected to the smaller stomach pouch.

In Lap-Band surgery, the surgeon places a silicone rubber band around the top of your stomach; this creates a very small stomach pouch. When you eat, you feel full very quickly. Food slowly flows from the smaller pouch into the lower part of the stomach and then into the rest of the digestive tract.

Gastric sleeve surgery uses a keyhole approach that involves the use of a laparoscopic tool that is inserted through small incisions. The laparoscopic tool provides a visual guide to the inside of the abdomen during the procedure.

Gastric plication is a newer procedure performed by growing numbers of bariatric surgeons. Also referred to as laparoscopic gastric plication and/or laparoscopic greater curvature plication, the procedure more than halves the size of your stomach to limit the amount of food you can eat at one time. The cost of gastric plication is similar to the cost of gastric sleeve.

Consultation Process

It is best to consult a surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery to determine your options for treatment. If you are significantly overweight and you have been unable to achieve or maintain a healthy weight with diet and exercise, or if your weight is causing medical problems, you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery.

A physician will also evaluate your existing medical conditions that may complicate surgery, your medical conditions that will improve after surgery and whether you are ready to adopt a dietary lifestyle change.

A bariatric surgery consultation also provides an opportunity for you to learn more about the procedure and how you can expect to feel, physically and emotionally, after the surgery. Prior to the consultation, you may want to make a list of questions to ask your surgeon, such as:

  • Which type of bariatric surgery is best for me (gastric bypass, Lap-Band or gastric sleeve resection)?
  • What is the recovery time after surgery?
  • What are my dietary guidelines after surgery?
  • How will my health improve after surgery?
  • How much weight can I expect to lose?
  • Will I need to have plastic surgery after bariatric surgery, and if so, which procedures?

Asking questions like these can help you feel more comfortable with the procedure and help you prepare to make lifestyle changes to ensure that your long-term outcome is successful.

How Is Surgery Performed?

Weight loss surgery is performed under general anesthesia and can take one to four hours for gastric bypass surgery, 30 minutes to one hour for Lap-Band Surgery and up to four hours for gastric sleeve resection. A hospital stay may be required.

After Surgery

After weight loss surgery, resuming your normal life can be a challenge. The most significant change is the amount of food you will be able to eat. Most surgeries reduce stomach capacity to a few ounces or less of food or liquid. At first, you may have less energy for daily activities. Recovery time varies, but many people can return to normal activities within six weeks of the surgery.

The reduction in the amount of food you can eat can help you lose a significant amount of weight. Many people who lose considerable weight are left with loose or excess skin.

To remove this skin and improve body contour, some people undergo cosmetic procedures. For example, a body lift removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen, hips, thighs and buttocks. Abdominoplasty tightens muscle and removes excess abdominal skin. Panniculectomy removes excess fat and skin from the abdomen, but does not tighten muscles like abdominoplasty.

(Visit our sister-site Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery to learn more about cosmetic procedures.)