As Obesity levels increase in Western countries, more and more people are opting to get Bariatric Surgery, also known as Weight Loss Surgery, in an attempt to lose weight that they have been unable to lose through conventional methods such as dieting and exercise.
The Medical guidelines for determining whether you qualify as a suitable candidate for weight loss surgery are:
You have tried an adequate dieting and exercise program, without success, and if you are classified as morbidly obese, with a Body Mass Index of 40 or above, or a BMI of 35+ if you also suffer from another serious medical condition that is related to obesity, such as diabetes or heart problems. It is critical that the surgical weight loss procedure is performed by experienced Bariatric surgeons in a high volume obesity surgery center.
There are three main kinds of surgery used for weight loss. Firstly, there are the malabsorbtive procedures, of which Biliopancreatic Diversion (BPD) is the main type. The idea is that surgery is performed to prevent the stomach absorbing much food. With this method, the patient can continue with a free diet. Malabsorbtive weight loss surgery often gives the highest degree of weight loss. However this method is not very popular, due to quite high risks of malnutrition. The patient will have to take mineral and vitamin supplements indefinitely after this form of weight loss surgery.
Much more commonly performed are the restrictive weight loss procedures, which work by making the stomach smaller. These include Vertical Banded Gastroplasty, more commonly known as stomach stapling or the Mason Procedure, the Adjustable Gastric Band also known as the Laparoscopic Band or Lap Band for short, Gastric Sleeve surgery, and the Gastric Balloon.
The remaining bariatric surgery techniques are a combination of limiting the absorption of food by the stomach, while also making the stomach smaller. The two most common methods are the Duodenal Switch, and the Gastric Bypass. Of all types of weight loss surgery, the gastric bypass is by far the most popular, and therefore the best understood in terms of its risks and results.
As with all surgery procedures, bariatric surgery carries a risk of complications. Gastric dumping, which can include diarrhoea is relatively common, and leaks or hernias where incisions were made are a risk. Also, as with any surgery, infections can be a danger. Risks are lesser with the restrictive types of weight loss surgery, such as Gastric Banding. Risks are also higher if the patent has open as opposed to Laparoscopic surgery.
You should naturally discuss the risks of surgery with your doctor.
However, studies has found pretty conclusively that the benefits can outweigh the risks for morbidly obese people, with the mortality rate from related diseases lowered, and improved blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetic control.
A typical amount of weight loss for the average patient after 36 months is between 30 and 40Kg. At the higher end, the gastric bypass generally gets the best results, although the risks are also a little greater. It must be understood, however, that weight loss surgery is not a miracle cure, and the patient must follow the regime and advice given by their doctor. It is possible to "cheat", and continue to eat more than you should, and this can have serious consequences.
Bariatric surgery is expensive, and particularly so in the US. It is also one of those surgeries that is often regarded as "elective", and therefore is generally outside the bounds of your medical insurance. For this reason, if you are able to get bariatric surgery, it is up to you to make sure that you take care of yourself, and consider yourself one of the lucky ones!