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Is Bariatric Surgery Right for Me?

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Explore the benefits and risks to help you decide

Posted by Neil A. King, MD

At one time, obesity was thought to be the result of poor lifestyle choices. But these days, we know obesity is much more complex than that. It’s related to 40+ diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even stroke.

Losing weight can help improve many of these conditions. As a Temple bariatric surgeon who has worked with thousands of patients on improving their health, I know that choosing the right program and embracing a network of support are very important.

Bariatric Surgery Is a Proven Method for Losing Significant Weight

Bariatric surgery is an option for many people who have health issues related to obesity. Significant weight loss from procedures such as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or gastric sleeve can improve or even reverse the effects of certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

So how do you decide if bariatric surgery is right for you? Start by talking to your doctor to learn all you can about the qualifications for surgery, the bariatric program, and the benefits and risks.

In the meantime, I want to share a comparison of benefits and risks for you to think about.

Jump to a topic:

 

Consider the Health Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

Roux-en-Y bypass and gastric sleeve surgery are each part of an overall program to help you adopt new habits that support a healthy lifestyle. No matter the route you choose, you’ll also learn new ways of thinking about food and nutrition.

As you lose weight, you’ll begin to notice that the healthy way you feel inside will start to reflect on the outside.

Here are some other benefits of bariatric surgery:

Increased ability to move

When you’re carrying excess weight, your ability to move can be affected. Whether you’re stiff and sore from arthritis, or just don’t feel like moving much, exercise and getting around may become a daily challenge.

Losing a significant amount of weight relieves the burden on your joints so you can begin to move more. Moderate exercise, such as daily walks, helps you:

  • Burn more fat and prevent fat storage
  • Reduce your insulin levels
  • Calm your stress hormones, which reduce depression and anxiety

When you feel good, it shows in everything you do. You may even feel you have a new lease on life.

Decreased reliance on medications

You may be currently on prescription medications for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or arthritis. After bariatric surgery, your health will be monitored with periodic labs and tests.

During this time, if your condition improves, your doctors may decide to reduce the amount of medicine you take, or tell you to stop taking your medication altogether in the case of diabetes or high blood pressure.

Reduced risk of life-threatening conditions

Obesity is linked to a number of cancers, including ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancer. It also increases your chance of developing diabetes, heart disease and breathing disorders.

Losing a significant amount of weight from bariatric surgery reduces your risk of developing these sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Better sleep, less pain and balanced hormones

As you lose weight, you may begin to notice improvements in the way you feel and in how you manage your health conditions.

In addition to significant improvement in diabetes and high blood pressure, you may also benefit from:

  • Improvement in sleep apnea, allowing you to breathe and sleep easier
  • Less pain from excess weight on your weight-bearing joints
  • Balanced hormones, which can influence fertility and menstrual cycle

Read more about bariatric surgery benefits >

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Take a Candid Look at the Risks

When considering whether Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or gastric sleeve is a fit for you, it’s always a good idea to weigh the risks against the benefits.

Before you have weight-loss surgery, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with a bariatric surgeon to go over the entire process. This includes reviewing any risks associated with your specific procedure, and many opportunities to ask questions.

Many of my patients ask about the risks of getting surgery. I explain to them that the risks associated with bariatric surgery are very low and are similar to that of abdominal surgeries:

Infection

Obesity causes you to have a layer of fat deep beneath the skin. This layer of fat is prone to infection. In most cases, infection after bariatric surgery can be resolved.

Bleeding

You may also experience bleeding after your procedure. This is because many blood vessels are cut then stitched back together during the surgery. Bariatric surgeons take precautions, but sometimes bleeding still occurs. There is a low incidence of post-surgery bleeding, and treatments are available if it does happen.

Dumping syndrome

One of the most widely known risks of bariatric surgery is dumping syndrome, a condition where food passes quickly from the stomach to the intestine. Before your procedure, you will learn strategies to avoid dumping syndrome, including eating protein first and avoiding certain foods and drinks.

Hernias

Hernias can occur after bariatric surgery, sometimes many months after your procedure. This is where an organ or tissue protrudes through a weak spot in tissue. You’ll be advised about symptoms to look out for, including abdominal pain and tenderness.

Bowel obstruction

Adhesions, or scar-like tissue, can happen with any abdominal surgery. Your bowel can become kinked around adhesions, causing a blockage. Surgery may be required in some cases.

DVT and pulmonary embolism

Obesity and inactivity can increase your chances of developing a blood clot in your leg, or deep venous thrombosis (DVT). The blood clot in your leg can break free and travel to your lungs, also called pulmonary embolism. This is usually treated with blood thinners.

Walking before and after your procedure helps prevent DVT and pulmonary thrombosis.

You can help to reduce your risk

As with any surgery, there are some risks of bariatric surgery complications. However, you can help to reduce the risks by adhering to your treatment plan:

  • Stay in contact with your treatment team and reach out quickly if you have any symptoms or questions
  • Make sure you attend your follow-up appointments on time
  • Follow the food intake plan that you and your dietitian put together
  • Attend support group meetings with your bariatric program

Read more about bariatric surgery risks >

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Know the Risks of Gastric Bypass vs. Gastric Sleeve

Both Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric sleeve can result in significant weight loss over time. But before you proceed, you and your bariatric surgeon will take a number of factors into consideration, including the risks of each procedure.

While some risks are the same for both procedures, some are different:

Gastric bypass risks

  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Leaking incision or incisional hernia
  • Infection
  • Intestinal or bowel blockage
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Gallstones
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Learn more about gastric bypass >

Gastric sleeve risks

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Infection
  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Staple site leaking
  • Diarrhea
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Learn more about gastric sleeve >

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Helpful Resources

Now that you’ve had a chance to compare each weight-loss surgery option, it might be a good time to learn more:

Neil A. King, MD

Dr. King is Assistant Professor of Surgery at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, specializing in bariatric surgery. His clinical interests include metabolic and bariatric surgery, robotic surgery, hernia surgery and minimally invasive surgery.

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