While that may sound appealing, gastric bypass surgery isn’t for everyone. Like any major procedure, it has significant health risks and side effects. In addition, the long-term success of gastric bypass surgery depends on your ability to make permanent changes in your lifestyle. When you want to be considered for gastric bypass surgery, you must undergo a thorough evaluation to determine if it’s suitable for your situation.
Weight loss can be difficult to achieve at the best of times. It takes patience and discipline to stay on course and get the results you want, and maintaining a healthy body weight can often pose a lifelong challenge. If you’ve tried every diet and exercise plan, and are still struggling to shed the pounds, you might be thinking about other weight loss options.
Is weight loss surgery for you?
Gastric bypass surgery is the most common type of weight-loss surgery. Gastric bypass and other types of weight-loss surgery, collectively known as bariatric surgery, make surgical changes to your stomach and digestive system that limit how much food you can eat and how many nutrients you absorb, leading to weight loss.
What is gastric bypass surgery?
Gastric bypass surgery is a procedure where the stomach is divided into two sections, creating a small, walnut-sized pouch out of the upper stomach where food then travels directly to the small intestine, bypassing the larger part of the stomach and limiting the amount of food the patient is allowed to take in and digest. This in-patient surgery takes approximately four hours, and within the first year, patients can expect to lose between 10 and 20 pounds per month.
Guidelines to qualify for gastric bypass surgery
Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries are major, life-changing procedures. While weight-loss surgery can help reduce your risk of weight-related health problems — such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sleep apnea — it can also pose major risks and complications. You may need to meet certain medical guidelines to qualify for weight-loss surgery. You likely will have an extensive screening process to see if you qualify.
In general, gastric bypass or another weight-loss surgery could be an option for you if:
- Efforts to lose weight with diet and exercise have been unsuccessful
- Your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher
- Your BMI is 35 or more and you have a serious weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea
- You’re a teenager who’s gone through puberty, your BMI is 35 or more, and you have serious obesity-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or severe sleep apnea
- In some cases, you may qualify for certain types of weight-loss surgery if your BMI is 30 to 34 and you have serious weight-related health problems.
Evaluating if you’re ready for gastric bypass surgery
- Even if you meet these general guidelines, you still may need to meet certain other medical guidelines to qualify for weight-loss surgery. You likely will have an extensive screening process to see if you qualify.
- A team of health professionals — usually including a doctor, dietitian, psychologist and surgeon — evaluate whether gastric bypass or one of the other forms of weight-loss surgery is appropriate for you. This evaluation generally determines if the health benefits of the surgery outweigh the potentially serious risks, and if you’re medically ready to undergo the procedure.
- The evaluation also determines if you’re psychologically ready to undergo weight-loss surgery. The procedure may increase certain risks in people with existing mental health conditions that aren’t effectively managed.
Laparoscopic band surgery
Alternately, with laparoscopic band surgery, an inflatable silicon band is placed around the top section of a patient’s stomach, creating a pouch which limits the amount of food they can take in and slowing the passage of food from the upper section of the stomach to the lower.
This surgery does not permanently alter the patient’s anatomy, and the band can be adjusted for comfort and effectiveness with an increase or decrease of saline solution through a port underneath the patient’s skin. This outpatient procedure lasts approximately one and a half hours, and a patient can expect to lose one to two pounds per week in the first year following surgery.
If you’re approved for gastric bypass surgery, your health care team gives you instructions about how to prepare in the months or weeks before the surgery. These instructions may include restrictions on eating and drinking, undergoing lifestyle counseling to help you cope with big changes in diet and exercise, quitting smoking, and starting a supervised physical activity or exercise program. In some cases, you may be required to lose weight before having gastric bypass surgery.
Because of the limited amount of food a patient is able to eat after both surgeries, care must be taken to ensure they stick to a specialized diet. This includes eating several small meals throughout the day, making sure the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients are being ingested to keep the body healthy.
Additional supplements may be necessary to make sure the patient receives proper nutrition.
After gastric bypass surgery, the patient will continue eating smaller portions for the rest of their life, while the laparoscopic band procedure can be reversed at any time. However, he cautions that neither of the surgeries are a magic bullet. The success of both depends on maintaining a proper post-operative diet and exercise plan to keep the weight from coming back.