Weight loss surgery is major surgery. After losing weight, most patients enjoy an improvement in obesity-related health conditions (such as mobility, self-image and self-esteem). The goal is to live better, healthier and longer.
Non-surgical weight loss programs
Most non-surgical weight loss programs are based on some combination of diet/behavior modification and regular exercise. Unfortunately, even most interventions have proven effective for only a small percentage of patients. It is estimated that less than 5% of individuals who participate in non-surgical weight loss programs will lose a significant amount of weight and maintain that loss for a significant period of time.
Risks of non-surgical weight loss programs
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 95% of all people in these programs regain their weight within one year. Sustained weight loss for patients who are significantly obese is even harder to achieve. Serious health risks have been identified for people who move from diet to diet, subjecting their bodies to a severe and continuing cycle of weight loss and gain known as “yo-yo dieting.”
Benefits of weight loss surgery
The fact remains that significant or severe obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease. Research has shown that the risk of death from not having the surgery is often greater than the risks from the possible complications of having surgery. That is the key reason that in 2007, approximately 205,000 weight loss surgical procedures were performed in the United States and since then more and more patients have sought out surgery and physicians and surgeons have recognized surgery as a relatively safe and very effective treatment. Patients who have had weight loss surgery report improvements in their quality of life, social interactions, psychological well-being, employment opportunities, and economic condition.
Considerations before weight loss surgery
You should make the decision to have weight loss surgery only after careful consideration and consultation with an experienced bariatric surgeon or a knowledgeable medical physician. A qualified surgeon should answer your questions clearly and explain the exact details of the procedure, the extent of the recovery period and the reality of the follow-up care that will be required. As part of routine evaluation for weight loss surgery, they may require that you consult with a dietician/nutritionist and a psychiatrist/therapist. This is to help establish a clear understanding of the post-operative changes in behavior that are essential for long-term success.
It is important to remember that there are no ironclad guarantees in any kind of medicine or surgery. There can be unexpected outcomes in even the simplest procedures. What can be said, however, is that weight loss surgery will only succeed when the patient makes a lifelong commitment. Some of the challenges facing a person after weight loss surgery can be unexpected. Lifestyle changes can strain relationships within families and between married couples. To help patients achieve their goals and deal with the changes surgery and weight loss can bring, most bariatric surgeons offer follow-up care that includes support groups, dieticians and other forms of continuing education.
Although surgery results in dramatically positive lifestyle alterations, there can be complications associated with surgery and as a patient you should make sure that you research your options as well as potential complications after surgery in great detail. Make sure that you ask your physician and surgeon about your options as well as potential complications associated with the surgery of your choice. Some of the potential complications associated with surgery include but are not limited to complications such as infection, bleeding, recurrent or persistent obesity, conversion to an open operation, staple line breakdown failure or leakage, thromboembolism including pulmonary embolism and portal venous thrombosis, hemorrhage potentially requiring transfusion, bowel obstruction, the potential obligation undergo further surgery including revisional procedures, and the understanding that failure to take supplements as instructed can result in potentially severe complications.
Some patients may require an extended period of time off of work and potentially an extended hospital stay should complications occur, but this is rare. Patient should also be aware of the potential risk for increased reflux and heartburn following sleeve gastrectomy. Be aware that symptoms of reflux may be mild or controlled by medication but may require endoscopic evaluation and surveillance and possibly another operative procedure in the future if not controlled by more conservative means. It is also important to be aware that depending on a patient’s size and medical history there can be increased risk of other complications including but not limited to myocardial infarction, stroke, ventilator dependence, and even death.
Making the Decision
Ultimately, the decision to have the procedure is entirely up to you. Most patients come to the conclusion that the benefits far outweigh the risks of surgery. After having heard all the information, you must decide if the benefits outweigh the side effects and potential complications in your particular case. Weight loss surgery is only a tool. Your ultimate success depends on strict adherence to the recommended dietary, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Dr George Woodman has performed over 10,000 weight loss surgical procedures for patients around the country including in and around the Memphis area, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, and eastern Tennessee. He is recognized as a member of the ASMBS (American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and is the Director of the bariatric surgical programs at both Baptist Memphis and Methodist Germantown Hospitals. Attend one of our free weight loss seminars to see if weight loss surgery is right for you.