What is Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric or weight loss surgery is a catch-all term that includes any surgical procedure performed on the stomach or intestines with the goal of inducing significant weight loss. It is one of the only weight loss treatments with a proven track record of success and, for many people, it is the only viable option for achieving durable weight loss. While any surgical procedure carries some level of risk, bariatric surgery is a safe treatment option for patients struggling to maintain a healthy weight.

The most common procedures under the bariatric surgery umbrella are sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, gastric banding, and duodenal switch. All of these procedures are typically performed using minimally-invasive (laparoscopic) techniques and work by altering the anatomy of the stomach and digestive tract, which helps limit food intake, makes patients feel full sooner, and limits digestion. By decreasing the storage capacity of the stomach, bariatric surgery prevents overeating and helps patients eat fewer calories, generating significant weight loss in a short period of time.  

What qualifies an Individual for Bariatric Surgery?

Individuals who cannot successfully manage their weight with diet and exercise could be candidates for bariatric surgery. To qualify, patients typically must have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40, or a BMI greater than 35 and one or more obesity-related co-morbidities. Examples of common obesity-related co-morbidities include diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, lipid abnormalities, and heart disease. Regardless of your BMI and overall health status, the only way to definitively know if you are a candidate for bariatric surgery is to consult your physician.

One of the most important factors physicians consider when determining a patient’s eligibility for bariatric surgery is their willingness and ability to comply with the necessary diet and lifestyle changes following the procedure. Bariatric surgery is not a cure-all for obesity; it requires commitment and effort from patients to take the necessary steps to ensure optimal outcomes. Therefore, it is very important for a physician to confirm that patients are physically and emotionally prepared for the procedure when deciding whether or not to proceed.

Should You Consider Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a very effective procedure providing significant and durable weight loss in patients for whom diet and exercise alone are not sufficient. It has the ability to induce dramatic and near-immediate weight loss in patients, which helps improve both mental and physical health. The procedures that comprise bariatric surgery have been shown to improve or resolve obesity-related co-morbidities, reduce the risk for certain cancers, increase lifespan, and improve overall quality of life for patients.

Additionally, bariatric surgery can help bring about improvements in mental health for patients who undergo the procedure and achieve significant weight loss. By increasing self-esteem, decreasing negative self-perception, and instilling a sense of accomplishment where before there was only a sense of failure, bariatric surgery can have positive impacts in almost every aspect of a patient’s life. Patients who choose to undergo bariatric surgery quickly realize that the benefits of the procedure go far beyond quickly losing weight.

Types of Bariatric Surgery

Generally speaking, bariatric surgery works by decreasing the volume of a patient’s stomach, thereby restricting the amount of food they can consume (restrictive procedures), or altering the digestive tract itself to decrease the amount of calories that can be absorbed from digested food (malabsorptive procedures). Some procedures only aim to decrease the size of the stomach and some just decrease the length of the digestive tract, but there are some procedures that do combination of both; in any instance, the end result of bariatric surgery is drastic weight loss in a short period of time.

Bariatric surgery is most commonly performed using minimally-invasive laparoscopic techniques, in which the surgeon works through small incisions in the abdomen using an instrument called a laparoscope. There are a number surgical procedures that fall under the umbrella of bariatric surgery. The most common procedures under the bariatric surgery umbrella are sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, gastric banding, and duodenal switch. Regardless of which procedure your surgeon chooses, the extent of the procedure’s success is largely dependent on the patient’s adherence to post-surgery diet and exercise regimens.