Weight Loss Surgery

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Weight loss surgery overview

What is weight loss surgery?

This weight loss surgery overview aims to explain what weight loss surgery is, how it works and the different types of weight loss surgery available to you.

Weight loss surgery is an increasingly popular and effective method in tackling obesity. The medical name for this type of surgery is bariatric surgery. It aims to create substantial and sustained weight loss in those with:

  • A BMI of greater than 35 (if you have other medical conditions that would benefit from weight loss e.g. high blood pressure or diabetes).
  • A BMI of greater than 40 (if you have no other medical conditions that would benefit from weight loss).

While there are different types of weight loss surgery available, they generally all work by the same principles. These principles include:

  • Restricting how many calories your body can consume.
  • And/or by changing how your body absorbs calories and fats .

What types of weight loss surgery techniques are available?

There are different types of surgical techniques your surgeon can use for your weight loss surgery. Consequently, the technique that they decide to use will depend on a number of factors. These may include:

  • The goals you have for your weight loss surgery.
  • Your current BMI.
  • Your current health status.
  • The possible risks you may encounter with each procedure.

Gastric balloon

This approach can be done using a local anaesthetic and sedation. Your surgeon will insert a deflated balloon through your mouth, down your food-pipe and into your stomach. He or she will then inflate the balloon with a salt-water solution. The presence of this inflated balloon will restrict the amount of space available in your stomach. Consequently, it will also restrict the amount of food that you will be able to eat. This balloon will stay in place for 6 to 18 months.

This technique can allow for up to 30% weight loss of excess weight in the first 6 months. It is generally most suitable for patients with a BMI of 27 to 30. Equally, it can also be used as a first-step for those who require initial weight loss before another technique can be used.

Gastric band

This method is quick, reversible and carries the least risk of all the weight loss surgery methods available. Your surgeon will make small, ‘keyhole’ incisions on your abdomen so that they can insert a band around your stomach. This band will be inflatable and adjustable. When inflated, it will restrict the amount of food that can fit in your stomach at one time and therefore, you will eat less food as a result.

Using this approach, up to 45-50% of excess weight can be lost. It is most suitable for patients with a BMI of 30 to 40. In addition, it may also be suitable for patients who are not ready to commit to an irreversible procedure.

Gastric sleeve

In this procedure, your surgeon will use small, ‘keyhole’ incisions to remove 70% of your stomach. He or she will then staple the remaining 30% into a small, banana shaped tube. This technique physically limits the amount of food you can eat and allows you to feel full by eating less. Unlike the gastric bypass and duodenal switch surgeries, your normal digestive tract will remain intact. Consequently, you will only require nutritional supplements for a short period after your surgery.

Using this method of weight loss surgery, up to 60-70% of excess weight can be lost in the first 12 months. It is suitable for those with a BMI of >30.

Gastric bypass

Similar to a gastric sleeve surgery, your surgeon will use small, ‘keyhole,’ incisions to reduce the size of your stomach in a gastric bypass. However, in addition to this they will also alter the length of your digestive tract. This will reduce the amount of food you can physically eat and the amount of calories your digestive tract can absorb. Because this surgical technique alters the absorption in your digestive tract, you will need to take life-long vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure you get the nutrients you require.

This surgery allows up to 70% of excess weight to be lost in the first 2 years and is suitable for patients with a BMI of 30 to 50.

Duodenal switch

A duodenal switch is the second part of a two-stage procedure. The first stage is similar to a gastric sleeve surgery, in that your surgeon will remove a large portion of your stomach to restrict the amount of food you can eat. The purpose of this first stage is to allow enough weight loss so that the second stage is safer to carry out.

The second stage is the duodenal switch. This is similar to a gastric bypass, where your surgeon will alter the length of your digestive tract. However, in a duodenal switch, they also remove your gallbladder. Consequently, this will modify your body’s ability to absorb both calories and fats.
Overall, the two-stage process causes weight loss by restricting the amount of food you can eat and limiting the amount of calories and fats your digestive tract can absorb.

The duodenal switch has the highest weight loss results long-term, with up to 70-80% of excess weight lost at 2 years after surgery. This technique is most suitable for patients with a BMI of 60 to 65.

Which weight loss surgery procedure is best for me?

Your surgeon will discuss all the options available to you and explain which technique they think is most appropriate in your case.

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