Photo showing the bariatric surgery procedure.
Photo showing the bariatric surgery procedure.

Bariatric surgery itself is generally a safe procedure, especially with recent technological advancements in the surgical field. The effects of surgery on the digestive system might pose specific risks like nutritional deficiency caused by malabsorption, leading to conditions like anemia or osteoporosis

Considering the multitude of obesity-related diseases affecting many organ systems, bariatric surgery may be the safest option for many morbidly obese people, despite its risks. 

What are the benefits of bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery currently is the best and fastest option for significant and long-lasting weight loss in morbidly obese people. Along with weight loss, many obesity-related health issues tend to resolve along with the resulting weight loss, enhancing the patient’s quality of life.

The life expectancy improves in many, as does general health, and ability to do daily activities. It is important to follow a healthy lifestyle and eating habits to sustain the weight loss and improved health.

How is bariatric surgery performed?

Bariatric surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Most bariatric surgeries are laparoscopic, but some patients may need conventional surgery. The procedure may last several hours.  A surgeon specializing in bariatric surgery will perform the procedure. A gastroenterologist is integral in caring for the patient before and after the surgery.

Preparation

  • The patient first undergoes blood, urine, and imaging tests.
  • Based on the individual’s specific needs, the surgeon decides on the type of bariatric surgery.
  • The patient must stop taking blood thinners, have nothing to eat or drink 8 hours prior to surgery, and check with the doctor before taking any regular medications.

Procedure

  • An anesthesiologist administers anesthesia and monitors the patient’s vital functions during the surgery.
  • The surgeon performs bariatric surgery and closes the incisions with sutures.
  • The patient is monitored in a recovery room and administered painkillers for post-surgical pain.
  • The patient may be required to remain in the hospital for a few days, depending on the type of surgery.

Post-surgery

  • Patients will generally not be allowed to eat for one or two days after surgery to let the digestive system heal.
  • The dietitian will prescribe a diet regimen for the patient post-surgery.
  • Patients must supplement the diet with multivitamins, calcium, and iron.
  • Patients must modify their lifestyle and eating habits.
  • Periodic health check-ups will be required post-surgery.
  • Body contouring procedures might be required to correct flabbiness caused by weight loss.

How long is recovery from bariatric surgery?

With a laparoscopic surgery a patient is usually discharged in two or three days and most patients will be able to get back to normal activities in three to five weeks, depending on their original stage of obesity and other health conditions.

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What are the risks and complications of bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery may not be suitable for everyone, and in some, it may not achieve the desired weight loss. The patient has to combine it with a modified lifestyle, diet, and activity. Bariatric surgery has a few risks and possible complications, some of them specific to this kind of surgery.

Risks from surgery

Complications

Besides the surgical risks, other complications (listed by procedure type) may include:

Gastric banding

  • Injury to the stomach or food pipe

Vomiting

  • Displacement or leakage of the band

Sleeve gastrectomy

  • Leaking of the sleeve
  • Long-term risks are still being evaluated

Gastric bypass

  • Diarrhea
  • Leakage from the digestive tract
  • Distension of stomach

Stomal stenosis or narrowing of the gastrointestinal tract

Duodenal switch

  • Malnutrition from protein deficiency
  • Vitamin deficiency leads to anemia, osteoporosis, and night blindness
  • Complications from gastric bypass

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Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2022
References
Medscape Reference