The idea that a surgical procedure could be an effective way to address obesity began when doctors witnessed the dramatic weight loss of cancer patients after having parts of their stomach or small intestine removed because of tumors. Since then, several types of weight loss surgeries have been performed, some more successfully than others. Although a full 80% of all weight loss surgeries that take place today in the United States are gastric bypass procedures, it is certainly not the only option available.
Another weight loss procedure, called a sleeve gastrectomy, is not as drastic as the gastric bypass. During the procedure, a large portion of the stomach is removed, and the remaining portion then becomes a narrow cylinder or “sleeve” that connects to the small intestine. A relatively straightforward operation, the sleeve gastrectomy may be recommended by a doctor whose patient’s health is poor making a gastric bypass too risky.
Another surgery, known as a biliopancreatic diversion, is more extreme and less common than the gastric bypass. This procedure removes about 70% of the stomach but also involves a “duodenal switch” in which even more of the small intestine is bypassed. Patients are usually able to lose 70-80% of the extra weight they need to shed after having this procedure, but because so much of the small intestine is bypassed, patients sometimes experience problems getting all of the nutrients they need.
The least invasive procedure is known as adjustable gastric banding. During this surgery, an inflatable band is used to squeeze the stomach into two portions. These sections remain connected to each other, but because this pathway between them is extremely narrow, the process of emptying food from the upper portion into the lower portion is quite slow. Because of this, patients can only eat a tiny portion of food before feeling full, which results in weight loss. Unlike the other procedures, the tightness of the gastric band can be adjusted through the use of saline injections, and the procedure can be reversed altogether by removing it, but patients who choose this procedure tend to lose less weight.
The decision to have any surgery requires a great deal of thoughtful consideration. After all, weight loss surgery is not right for every obese patient. Even when it is, each procedure has its own risks and benefits. That is why it is essential for anyone considering such an operation to work closely with a trusted physician in making such an momentous decision.