The Weight Loss Surgeon’s Perspective: Exploring the Health Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

The Weight Loss Surgeon’s Perspective: Exploring the Health Benefits of Bariatric Surgery
The Weight Loss Surgeon’s Perspective: Exploring the Health Benefits of Bariatric Surgery


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Weight loss surgery has various amazing benefits, the most obvious of which is helping patients lose excess weight when they have previously struggled to do so through diet and exercise. The best candidates for weight loss surgery are those who are more than 100 pounds overweight, have a high body mass index (BMI), and have one or more health problems like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes. Making permanent changes in your lifestyle in conjunction with bariatric surgery will help you achieve long-term weight loss.

Severe Obesity Affects Your Health

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), obese individuals have a greater risk of death from all causes, 10% to 50% higher than the general population. Some medical problems have an exceptionally high association with obesity. The foremost of these is type 2 diabetes. Researchers have found that when patients achieve significant weight loss through bariatric surgery, diabetes goes into remission. Other patients need significantly fewer medications. One weight loss procedure particularly effective for diabetes is a duodenal switch with biliopancreatic diversion.

Other issues that weight loss surgery can resolve or ease include:

  • Heart disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Asthma
  • Certain cancers

Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

Many obese patients who elect metabolic and bariatric surgery experience better overall health because of reduced risk factors. This translates to better longevity. A 2018 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that those who underwent bariatric surgery had a death rate of 1.3% over 4.5 years, compared to non-surgical obese patients at 2.3%.

As you drop pounds, your metabolism becomes faster, and you’ll be able to participate in more physical activity, improving the body’s ability to burn fat efficiently. The pounds will become easier to lose when your metabolism increases, so it’s a win-win situation. Hormones like cortisol and insulin also decrease, helping to lower stored body fat.

Women, particularly those suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a condition associated with obesity, often become more fertile following bariatric surgery. However, you should refrain from becoming pregnant for at least 12 to 18 months due to fetal and maternal health concerns.

Understanding the Risks of Weight Loss Surgery

All bariatric procedures carry risks as they are major abdominal surgeries. The more invasive the procedure, the greater your chance of significant complications. Procedures like gastric bypass, duodenal switch with biliopancreatic diversion, and SADI-S are more invasive because they alter the small intestine diminishing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Weight loss surgeries like sleeve gastrectomy are less risky, as only the stomach size changes.

All surgeries risk complications from general anesthesia and developing blood clots. More invasive bariatric procedures present a greater chance of infection and more internal connections that could lead to leaks. If the procedure is performed improperly or a leak occurs, the situation could lead to additional surgeries. Following are some of the more severe problems.

Atelectasis

Atelectasis is the partial collapse of the lungs, occurring when the bottom portion is squashed and only open with coughing and very deep breaths. It is a somewhat common occurrence in patients with obesity. It is very common after surgery, especially in people who are obese, when the bottom portion of the lungs is “squashed,” opening only with coughing and very deep breaths. Atelectasis can lead to fever and pneumonia.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that has traveled to the lungs from the legs. They are dangerous when they break off and travel through the body. Large clots can cause shortness of breath or even block oxygen from entering the lungs resulting in death. To prevent this problem, bariatric surgery patients wear sequential compression boots in the hospital. This device massages your legs and helps prevent clots from forming. Patients also receive a small dose of blood thinner before surgery.

Bowel Leakage

Leakage of bowel contents is the most severe complication, usually occurring after the duodenal switch, SADI-S, or gastric bypass surgery. Leaks can form between the connection between the stomach or small intestine or between the two parts of the intestine. Another leak can occur after sleeve gastrectomy when the staple line in the stomach bursts. This problem causes a high heart rate, pain in the abdomen, infection, fever, and, in rare instances, death.

Long-Term Risks

In addition, patients under obesity surgery risk vitamin deficiencies because of their reduced ability to absorb calories. Additional complications include gastroesophageal reflux disease and the possibility of dumping syndrome, a group of symptoms that includes diarrhea, nausea, and feeling light-headed caused by rapid gastric emptying from the stomach to the first part of the small intestine.

Pros and Cons of Weight Loss Surgery

Although bariatric surgery carries risks, it’s more dangerous to remain obese. The benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks. A thorough evaluation before bariatric surgery will determine if you are psychologically ready to handle the changes in your life and accomplish long-term weight loss.

Life After Bariatric Surgery

The many benefits of weight loss surgery go beyond improving the previously noted medical problems. Those who achieve long-term success and steadily lose weight experience a better quality of life. As you go through your weight loss journey, you’ll experience greater self-esteem, have better social interactions, and can do more of the activities you love.

However, keep in mind that bariatric surgery is not magic. Its main benefit is that it is a tool you use along with diet and increased activity to achieve better health. Weight loss surgery is the entry point that allows diet and exercise to actually work.

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