Understanding bariatric surgery: Procedures, pain, and life expectancy

Written by: Mr Oliver Old
Edited by: Conor Dunworth

In recent years, bariatric surgery has emerged as the leading solution for individuals struggling with severe obesity. This transformative procedure offers hope for improved health and quality of life. In this guide, consultant general surgeon and bariatric specialist Mr Oliver Old explains some of the key elements of bariatric surgery to provide clarity for patients considering this option.


What is bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, encompasses a range of procedures aimed at reducing the size of the stomach and/or reducing appetite. The primary goal is to facilitate weight loss and, consequently, improve or resolve obesity-related health conditions.


Different bariatric procedures

There are several types of bariatric procedures, each with its own mechanism of action and outcomes:

1. Gastric bypass

This operation involves dividing the stomach to create a small pouch of stomach (nothing is removed), and then connecting the small intestine directly onto this small stomach pouch. Food passes into the pouch, and its small size contributes to feelings of fullness. Food is then delivered directly into the small intestine, bypassing the lower stomach, duodenum, and first part of the small intestine. This has a powerful effect on reducing appetite and improving a number of metabolic factors, such as diabetic control.

2. Sleeve gastrectomy

During a sleeve gastrectomy, a large portion of the stomach is surgically removed, leaving a narrow, sleeve-shaped stomach. This reduces the stomach's capacity and diminishes the production of appetite-regulating hormones. This reduces appetite and means you feel full more quickly, leading to reduced food intake.

3. Adjustable gastric band

In this procedure, an inflatable band is placed around the upper portion of the stomach, creating a small pouch. The band can be adjusted to control feelings of fullness and the amount of food that can pass through, effectively limiting food intake.


How painful is bariatric surgery?

Pain perception varies among individuals, but generally, bariatric surgery is associated with some discomfort during the initial recovery period. However, advancements in keyhole surgical techniques and pain management strategies have significantly minimised postoperative pain. Patients are typically provided with pain medications to alleviate any discomfort and facilitate a smoother recovery process.


Can you live a long life after bariatric surgery?

Yes, bariatric surgery can significantly extend life expectancy for individuals affected by severe obesity. Studies have shown that bariatric surgery not only leads to substantial weight loss but also improves or cures many obesity-related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnoea. Bariatric surgery reduces the risk of major diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Moreover, adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, further enhances the long-term benefits of bariatric surgery.


Bariatric surgery offers hope for individuals struggling with severe obesity, providing a path towards improved health and longevity. By understanding the different procedures, managing expectations regarding pain, and committing to long-term lifestyle changes, patients can embark on a transformative journey towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.



For personalised advice and guidance regarding bariatric surgery, it is essential to consult with a qualified bariatric surgeon, such as Mr Oliver Old. You can book a consultation with Mr Old today via his Top Doctors profile.


By Mr Oliver Old

Mr Oliver Old is a distinguished consultant general surgeon specialising in bariatric surgery and upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgery. He currently practises privately in both Gloucester and Cheltenham. With over 15 years of expertise, he excels in a wide array of procedures including bariatric surgery, gallbladder surgery, hernia repair, acid reflux treatment, and management of Barrett’s oesophagus, demonstrating his commitment to comprehensive patient care and weight loss management.
Mr Old has an impressive educational background including an FRCS qualification from the Royal College of Surgeons, an MD from the University of Exeter, a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) from the University of Birmingham, and a degree in Neuroscience. He was awarded a Research Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons focusing on Barrett’s oesophagus, for which he was awarded his MD. He completed his surgical training in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, including fellowships at prestigious centres of excellence in Melbourne and Auckland.
In addition to his clinical practice, Mr Old is actively engaged in research. His contributions extend to leadership as the Chief Investigator of the Barrett’s Oesophagus Surveillance Study (BOSS), a large-scale international randomised trial. He is also a member of prestigious professional bodies such as the Association of Upper GI Surgery (AUGIS), the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS), and the Royal College of Surgeons.
Mr Oliver Old's dedication extends beyond clinical and academic realms as he has volunteered his expertise and time to various initiatives.

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