Bariatric Surgery and Weight Loss: Risk and Facts

Obesity is a worry for many today and while diet and exercise are effective mediums to reduce extra weight, sometimes it requires more than just these factors to shed of those heavy pounds. Obesity is a condition where a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) – relation of the weight in correspondence of height – is 30 or more. Obesity also has levels: class 1 obesity is up to 35 BMI level, class 2 obesity is up to 40 BMI levels, while class 3 obesity refers to a BMI of 40 or more. No matter the class, obesity is always undesirable and hence, methods other than exercise and diet are required to lose those extra kilos. One of the highly desirable and sought after methods is a Bariatric Surgery.

A bariatric surgery is a metabolic surgery that reduces the fat in the body by making changes to the digestive system. A general bariatric surgery helps a person lose 50% of the excess weigh during the first 6 months. The surgery makes the stomach smaller and limits the amount of food one can eat at one time by making you feel fuller earlier. More so, the surgery may involve changes in the small intestine so that there is limited absorption of calories and nutrients form food and beverages. A bariatric surgery may include one of these techniques or could include both, depending on case to case.

As mentioned earlier, a bariatric surgery is opted where diet and exercise are no longer effective and the excess weight has started to cause adverse health effects such as high blood pressure, heart problems, Gastroesophageal reflux disease, severe sleep apnea, diabetes, stroke, etc. However, not everyone qualifies for a bariatric surgery and there is an in-depth screening before the doctors consider you fit for the surgery. A bariatric surgery can be one of the following types:

Gastric bypass surgery: where the stomach is divided into a smaller size to reduce food intake

Gastric band surgery: where a band is places around the stomach to reduce the food consumption. This is a reversible process.

Patrial gastrectomy: also known as sleeve gastrectomy, this procedure removes the stomach replacing it with a small portion plate which results in reduction of appetite due to suppressing of hormone ghrelin.

No matter the type of bariatric surgery, it is vital to understand the procedure, know the facts and risks associated with it.

Some facts about bariatric surgery are:

  • Bariatric surgery is ideal for obese people, however, it can also be opted for people who are overweight and suffer serious health problems due to excess weight.
  • The benefits of a bariatric surgery beyond weight loss and help to resolve severe health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
  • The risks associated with a bariatric surgery are lower than those of a gallbladder surgery.
  • The recovery post a bariatric surgery is quick and easy, approximately between 2-4 weeks.
  • Eating after a bariatric surgery needs proper care and attention especially for the 1-2 months after the surgery. Slow eating and smaller portions are recommended.
  • A bariatric surgery is a journey and not a destination. A person will lose 50% of their weight in the first 6 months and the rest of excess weight in the following 12 months.
  • The surgery needs discipline and routine in eating and lifestyle
  • The surgery does not leave big scars. It involves three to five incisions of approximately 1/2 to 1 inch length.
  • Intake of liquids during meals needs to be avoided to avoid discomfort.
  • Bariatric surgery does not cause any deficiency in the body provided proper diet chart as recommended by the doctor is followed.
  • One can eat anything post recovery from the surgery but always in limited quantity. A doctor in very rare cases might restrict certain food items which could trigger health issues.
  • The surgery has high success rates (more than 85%) and very low chances of side effects and failure. Its risks are in fact lower than the harmful effects of obesity.
  • Not everyone qualifies for a bariatric surgery. Doctors screen you for certain medical conditions to ensure you are qualified to undergo surgery.

Some of the risks associated with bariatric surgery include:

The surgery may cause short-term and long-term effects.

Short-term risks are:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Blood clots in legs that move to the heart and lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lung problem
  • Leaks in the gastrointestinal system
  • Body ache
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss

Long-term risks are:

  • Bowel impediment
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Strictures
  • Hernias
  • Gallstones
  • Low blood sugar
  • Malnutrition
  • Digestive problems
  • Ulcers
  • Blocked intestines
  • Stomach puncture
  • Death (very rarely)

With the more than 140 million people suffering from obesity and related health problems in India, a bariatric surgery is highly sought after and effective method to reduce the health impacts. Overall, if both risks and benefits of the surgery are weighed, the benefits outweigh the risks in conditions where obesity has led to excessive health issues.