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Ten Things You Need to Know About Weight Loss Surgery
General Wellness

Ten Things You Need to Know About Weight Loss Surgery

By Matthew Davis, MD
Posted: July 11, 2023

Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, has gained popularity as an effective solution for those struggling with obesity. If you're considering weight loss surgery, getting accurate information is essential to making an informed decision. Dr. Matthew Davis, bariatric surgeon at Methodist Medical Group Weight Management & Wellness, shares ten things to help you understand the procedure, benefits, risks, recovery and post-surgery care. Let's dive in!

1. What is Weight Loss Surgery?

Weight loss surgery refers to a range of surgical procedures designed to help achieve significant weight loss by modifying the digestive system. The surgery aims to restrict food intake and/or reduce the absorption of calories, leading to sustainable weight loss and improved overall health.

2. Types of Weight Loss Surgery

Currently, weight loss surgery is performed laparoscopically (with small incisions). The two most commonly performed procedures are gastric sleeve (sleeve gastrectomy) and gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass). Let's take a closer look at each of these surgeries.

Gastric Sleeve (Sleeve Gastrectomy):

Gastric sleeve surgery involves reducing the size of your stomach by removing a large portion, creating a smaller, banana-shaped "sleeve" or tube-like structure. This procedure limits the amount of food you can consume at one time, leading to a feeling of fullness and satisfaction with smaller portions.

Practical Benefits:

  • Reduced Stomach Size: By removing a significant portion of the stomach, the gastric sleeve restricts the amount of food you can eat, helping to control your portion sizes.
  • Hormonal Changes: The surgery also affects the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, reducing your appetite and cravings.
  • Biochemical Changes: A smaller stomach processes the food you eat differently, leading to improved digestive responses to dietary carbohydrates, fats, and sugars.

Gastric Bypass (Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass):

Gastric bypass surgery involves creating a small pouch at the top of your stomach, which is then connected directly to the small intestine, bypassing the majority of the stomach and a portion of the intestines. This procedure both restricts food intake and reduces calorie absorption, leading to significant weight loss.

Practical Benefits:

  • Portion Control and Reduced Caloric Intake: The smaller stomach pouch limits the amount of food you can eat, helping you feel satisfied with smaller portions.
  • Malabsorption Effect: By bypassing a portion of the intestine, gastric bypass reduces the absorption of calories and nutrients, aiding weight loss.
  • Hormonal Changes: Similar to the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass alters the gut hormones that regulate hunger and fullness, reducing appetite and enhancing satiety.

3. Who's a Candidate for Weight Loss Surgery?

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), weight loss surgery is recommended for individuals who meet specific criteria, such as: 

  • Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher (severe obesity)
  • Having a BMI of 35 or higher with significant weight-related health issues like diabetes, hypertension, or sleep apnea
  • Being unable to achieve substantial weight loss through diet and exercise alone
  • Being committed to making lifelong changes to diet and lifestyle

4. Risks of Weight Loss Surgery

Many studies have shown that weight loss surgery is a low-risk procedure, similar to gallbladder surgery. However, it's important to understand that all surgical procedures carry some degree of risk. Here are some of the potential risks associated with weight loss surgery:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Nutritional deficiencies in the long term

It's important to note that while these risks exist, weight loss surgery is generally considered quite safe, especially when performed by experienced surgeons in well-equipped medical facilities. Your healthcare team will thoroughly assess your risk factors and discuss these risks with you before the procedure.

5. Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery offers a multitude of benefits that extend beyond just shedding excess pounds. Here are some key advantages:

  • Improved overall health
  • Resolution or improvement of obesity-related health issues (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, etc.)
  • Increased mobility and energy levels
  • Enhanced self-esteem and body image
  • Potential reduction in medication usage
  • Decreased risk of some cancers


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6. Side Effects of Weight Loss Surgery

After weight loss surgery, patients may experience various side effects, including:

  • Steady weight loss over time
  • Temporary hair loss, which usually regrows within a few months
  • Changes in food tolerance and restrictions, such as smaller portion sizes and avoiding certain foods
  • Improvement in sleep apnea and other sleep-related issues due to weight loss

It's important to remember that while these side effects can occur, many can be managed effectively with proper medical guidance and support.

7. Expected Weight Loss

Weight loss results vary depending on the type of surgery and individual factors. On average, patients can expect to lose a significant amount of weight within the first one to two years following surgery, typically ranging from 20% to 30% of their total body weight.

8. Recovery Time

The recovery period each person experiences after weight loss surgery varies depending on the type of surgery and individual healing. Generally, patients can expect to spend one or two days in the hospital after the procedure. Full recovery may take a couple of weeks, during which patients gradually resume normal activities.

9. Care after Surgery

After weight loss surgery, follow-up care and support are crucial for long-term success. Care after surgery may include:

  • Regular check-ups with your healthcare team
  • Nutritional counseling to ensure proper nutrient intake
  • Support groups to connect with others who have undergone similar procedures
  • Behavioral and lifestyle modifications to maintain a healthy weight

10. Diet after Surgery

The post-surgery diet will progress gradually, starting with clear liquids and advancing to solid foods. Some general guidelines for a healthy post-surgery diet include the following: 

  • Avoiding sugary foods and beverages
  • Limiting high-fat and greasy foods
  • Prioritizing lean proteins, vegetables and fruits
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day
  • Taking a daily multivitamin

Start Your Weight Loss Journey

If you're considering weight loss surgery or are seeking more information, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is here to help. Contact our experienced team of weight loss providers today to discuss your options and get personalized guidance on your weight loss journey. Your path to a healthier lifestyle starts here!

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