Gastric bypass has helped many morbidly obese individuals successfully lose 100 or more pounds. The procedure is recommended as a weight loss option for medical reasons (rather than cosmetic).
What is the gastric bypass procedure?
Gastric bypass is permanent surgery on the stomach to reduce the length of the digestive tract and stop food being absorbed.
A small pouch is created at the top of the stomach. Then, so that food bypasses the stomach and much of the intestine (meaning it can’t be digested), part of the intestine is then grafted to the top of this pouch.
How does a gastric bypass promote weight loss?
By reducing the stomach’s capacity of for holding food, and bypassing part of the small intestine, gastric bypass (also known as stomach stapling’) leads to weight loss by limiting the amount of food you are physically capable of digesting. The empty space inside your stomach is quite literally shrunk’. That means the number of calories you can eat is reduced.
Am I a candidate for gastric bypass?
You could be. If your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or above, or you have a BMI of 30 or greater with obese related health conditions, then a gastric bypass could be an obesity surgery option to seriously consider, (but only if you have tried all other methods of weight loss such as exercise programmes and medications without success).
Deciding on having a gastric bypass
A gastric bypass is a major operation that changes the way the digestive system works. However, the operation carries an element of risk and you need to be aware of the possible side effects and the risk of complications.
Possible side effects:
- Post-surgery, you are likely to have some bruising, pain and swelling of the skin around the healing wound(s) for a few days.
- You may feel or be sick after eating, especially if you try to eat too much. If you eat sugary foods it can make you feel faint and sweaty.
- You will usually need to take vitamin supplements due to the restricted diet, and your bowel absorbs less well than before surgery.
- Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation. Most people are not affected. The possible complications of any surgery include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthesia or excessive bleeding during or soon after surgery. A blood transfusion may be required to replace the lost blood.
Some of the complications specific to a gastric bypass:
- For up to six weeks after the operation, it is possible to develop a blood clot (DVT) in the veins in the leg. This clot can break off and cause a blockage in the lungs. In most cases this is treatable, but it can be a life-threatening condition. Compression stockings, intermittent compression pumps and blood-thinning injections are used to help prevent DVT.
- During the operation other organs in the abdomen may be accidentally damaged. The points at which the intestine is re-joined could leak in the first few days. These complications are rare, but may need further surgery.
- Wound infection. Antibiotics are given during surgery to help prevent this.
- If you lose weight rapidly, there is a risk of developing gallstones in your gallbladder. These can be painful. Your surgeon may remove your gallbladder during surgery.
- There is a small risk of death during or soon after this operation.
Can a gastric bypass be redone if I gain weight?
In the event that the gastric bypass fails – it is possible you may fail to lose sufficient weight or regain weight – the operation may need to be repeated.
Find out more
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