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Benefits & Risks

Bariatric surgery is a serious approach to losing weight and regaining mobility, health and self-confidence.

But you should not consider weight loss surgery until you and your doctor have explored all other options, and until you have given careful thought to the benefits and risks. Your discussion should include the following points:

  • Bariatric surgery is not cosmetic surgery.
  • Bariatric surgery is not liposuction-it does not involve removing fat by suction or surgery.
  • You must commit to long-term lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which are keys to the success of bariatric surgery.
  • Complications after surgery may require further operations or procedures.

What are some benefits of weight loss surgery?

Obviously, the most important benefit is losing weight and feeling better. But patients who undergo bariatric surgery have significantly reduced rates of developing cancer, cardiovascular diseases, endocrinological disorders, infectious diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, psychiatric disorders, and pulmonary disorders.

As for weight loss, you can expect it to happen gradually with the adjustable gastric band-a weight loss of one to two pounds a week in the first year after the operation is common. One year to 18 months after the operation, weekly weight loss is usually less. Overall weight loss averages 40 to 60 percent of excess weight after two years. Weight loss is much quicker after gastric bypass, and averages 50 to 70 percent loss of excess weight.

Weight loss results vary among patients, depending on your dietary and exercise patterns, as well as genetic, social, emotional and cultural factors, so it's hard to accurately predict who will lose a lot of weight after bariatric surgery, and who will lose only a little.

Those who do well with weight loss tend to avoid snacks, eat nutritious foods, are more active, continue to work with support programs, and follow up with their doctor.

Those patients who show a less than average weight loss over time tend to be those who do not change their eating and exercise patterns, and/or return to snacking.

Other conditions improve

Weight loss surgery has been shown to dramatically improve conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • reflux disease (GERD)
  • osteoarthritis and joint pain

Weight loss also may improve conditions such as:

  • congestive heart failure
  • high cholesterol
  • high triglycerides
  • urinary incontinence
  • menstrual irregularity
  • back pain
  • clinical depression

Respiratory Problems: Sleep apnea (difficulty breathing during sleep) decreases dramatically as patients lose weight.  Patients who became short of breath from walking find that after surgery, they can participate in many more activities with families and others, and can also begin more rigorous exercise as time goes on.  Patients with asthma find that they have fewer and less severe attacks after surgery, especially when attacks are triggered by episodes of gastric reflux.

Life Expectancy: Several clinical studies of bariatric surgery show that surgery improved life expectancy in patients by at least 29 to 89 percent.

Surgical Risks for Gastric Bypass and Gastric Banding

As with any surgery, there may be immediate and long-term complications and risks. Discuss the benefits and risks with your bariatric surgeon and healthcare team.

Potential Risks of Weight Loss Surgery

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Gallstones
  • Blood clots or embolus
  • Dehydration
  • Selective food intolerance
  • Vomiting or Nausea
  • Death
  • Abdominal hernia
  • Enlarged heart
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Pneumonia
  • Failure to lose weight
  • Gastrointestinal swelling or injury
  • GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease)
  • Inflammation of the esophagus, gallbladder or stomach
  • Back pain

Potential Risks and Complications After Gastric Bypass

  • Dumping syndrome
  • Diarrhea  or Constipation
  • Increased gas
  • Chest pain
  • No port
  • Upset stomach
  • Leakage from connections
  • Internal hernia

Potential Risks and Complications After Gastric Banding

  • Migration of implant, which includes band erosion, band slippage, and port displacement
  • Tubing related complications, which include port disconnection, tube kinking, or band leakage
  • Port site infection