Obesity surgery

What is obesity surgery?

Obesity surgery, otherwise known as bariatric or weight-loss surgery, describes a range of procedures that are designed to treat people with obesity. Whilst there are different types of gastric surgery, the aim of the procedure is always to reduce the size of the stomach.

Why would you do it?

Bariatric surgery is a type of treatment for people who are obese. The surgery helps a person to lose weight and is generally carried out to reduce the risk of serious weight-related health problems which can be potentially life-threatening.

Over time obesity can lead to multiple conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke.

As a general rule, bariatric surgery is usually for those with a BMI of over 40 or those with a BMI of over 35, accompanied by a serious weight-related health problem.

What does it involve?

Some of the most common procedures, aimed at reducing the size of the stomach and making the patient feel full sooner and/or decreasing the ability to absorb nutrients are as follows:

  • A gastric band can be fitted around the stomach in order to reduce its size. The band is usually placed around the top part of the stomach and is adjustable.
  • A gastric bypass joins the top part of the stomach to the small intestine, thereby bypassing most of the stomach and small intestine.
  • A sleeve gastrectomy removes part of the stomach, decreasing its volume significantly.

All types of weight-loss surgery are done under general anaesthetic. Depending on the circumstances, the operation can be performed using open surgery or laparoscopically using smaller incisions and cameras to guide the process. The latter is also known as keyhole surgery.

How to prepare for it

Preparation for obesity surgery will depend on the individual to an extent. Restrictions are often placed on food and drink prior to surgery and certain medications may also need to be stopped for a period.

Post-operative care

Obesity surgery is a major operation and patients will normally wake up in a recovery room before being moved to a ward. There is no food or drink allowed for the first couple of days to allow the stomach and digestive system time to heal.

After that, patients can progress to clear liquids and are often discharged around three days after surgery, providing everything goes well. A specific diet will then need to be followed for some weeks after surgery, usually centered on liquids and soft foods.

Permanent lifestyle changes after surgery are also required to help keep weight off. Regular exercise and a balanced diet should be maintained to ensure that patients don’t put the weight they have lost back on.