Bariatric surgery is most suitable for people who are drastically obese, offering long-term results for those who are unable to lose weight from diet and exercise alone.
Suitable candidates are those who are at risk of developing other health problems because of their weight. Because of this, bariatric surgery should not be considered a ‘quick fix’ for losing weight.
There are different techniques involved with bariatric surgery:
Considered the safest procedure, the Intra-gastric balloon technique involves a balloon being inserted through the mouth and into the stomach using a flexible endoscope (an instrument commonly used to examine the interior of the body). The balloon inflates with on settling in the stomach, causing the patient to feel fuller than they usually would after eating. Performed in hospital under a light anaesthetic, the procedure aims to control the portions of food consumed by the patient and consequently results in a lower intake of food overall. Although some discomfort is experienced, the presence of the balloon is reasonably tolerable and is usually removed after six months. However, the patient must be committed to a significant lifestyle change so that the resulting weight reduction is maintained.
The most commonly performed bariatric surgery is gastric banding. With relatively low risks, the procedure involves keyhole surgery to place a banding device around the top section of the stomach. The band is adjustable and can be tightened or loosened depending on the patient’s requirements by introducing a saline solution into a small access port placed underneath the skin. The tighter the band, the less food the patient is inclined to eat. This surgery is seen as a permanent treatment for suitable patients and involves few dietary restrictions.
This procedure involves removing the outer left part of the stomach, which stores food and sends out hunger signals, and then stapling the remaining part of the stomach. Patients who undergo this surgery usually have limited hunger and a lower capacity for food after the surgery, causing them to eat a lot less than they usually would. This treatment suppresses the appetite and restricts intake, and also allows patients to eat the types of food that they like. This surgery is not reversible and is suitable for patients who require a permanent weight loss solution, as advised by their doctor.
This is an extremely effective treatment for patients with serious metabolic problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol or blood pressure. This procedure can involve many techniques, but essentially involves dividing and stapling the stomach to form a small upper pouch and a larger lower pouch, and then a re-arrangement of the small intestine. Food is received into the upper pouch, which is constructed from the part of the stomach that is least susceptible to stretching – therefore inducing a severe ‘full’ feeling if too much food is ingested. This procedure has relatively high risks and is only performed if the risks associated with the patient’s obesity override those associated with the surgery.
Even though hospital stays vary for each procedure, patients generally spend around three days in hospital so that the surgeon can monitor the recovery process.
As with all surgery, every method involves risks. These may include:
– Abdominal hernias
– Blood clots
– Infection around the incision
– Saline leakage
– Bowel obstruction and bleeding