What is gastric bypass surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery is a medical procedure used to help obese patients lose weight. This invasive procedure is only used after all other less invasive weight loss options have failed. Gastric bypass surgery involves making a pouch in the stomach and then attaching the new, small stomach pouch to the intestines.

Gastric bypass surgery, also known as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, is the most commonly performed gastric surgery in the United States. According to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, there are 140,000 gastric bypass surgeries performed each year (47 percent of the total number of weight loss surgeries). Doctors prefer gastric bypass surgery over other weight loss surgeries because the risks are less harmful to patients.

Gastric bypass surgery is most effective as a part of a long-term maintenance plan that includes healthy eating and exercise.

How is gastric bypass surgery performed?

Mercy Health surgeons reconfigure the digestive tract during a gastric bypass surgery.

Surgeons will reduce the size and capacity of the stomach and bypass a portion of the small intestine by stapling the stomach horizontally, separating it into two parts. The larger portion, along with the upper section of the small intestine, is disconnected from the digestive tract.

The remaining stomach pouch is then reconnected to the small intestine. As a result, the amount of food that a person can eat without feeling full will be limited. This procedure will also reduce the amount of calories that can be absorbed from food.

Who is a candidate for gastric bypass surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery is major surgery that can pose major risks and complications. Patients need to meet medical guidelines to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. If you meet the guidelines below, you can discuss gastric bypass surgery with your doctor.

  • Dieting and exercising have not been effective
  • You have a body mass index (BMI) over 40
  • You have a BMI over 35 and have comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease
  • You have an adolescent who is through puberty and has a BMI over 35 and comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure

If your doctor considers you a candidate, you will undergo an extensive screening process before the procedure to ensure you can handle the drastic lifestyle changes you must make after the procedure.

Benefits of gastric bypass surgery?

There are a variety of benefits of having gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, including:

  • Less invasive than more traditional weight loss surgeries
  • Long-term weight loss - most patients lose more than 60% of excess body fat after gastric bypass surgery
  • Improve obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer
  • Limits the amount of food a patient can eat
  • Can change hormones so that patients feel less hungry and increase their metabolism
  • Lasts for life - you won’t need future surgeries

Disadvantages of gastric bypass surgery

There are some disadvantages associated with gastric bypass surgery, including:

  • Patients must be dedicated to a life of exercise and specific diet to maintain weight
  • The procedure cannot be reversed
  • The procedure is more involved than gastric band or sleeve gastrectomy
  • Some patients may experience complications such as vitamin deficiencies, ulcers or nausea, vomiting or discomfort when eating too much food.

Recovery from gastric bypass surgery

Gastric bypass surgery recovery is intense. You will be required to stay in the hospital for two to three days after surgery and will not be able to return to your normal activity level until up to three or four weeks after surgery.

A small percentage of patients may develop minor complications such as bleeding, ulcers, digestive issues and wound infections.

Even fewer patients may develop serious complications, including a pulmonary embolism, heart attack and serious infection.

Keys to long-term success with gastric bypass surgery

Patients must be dedicated to their long-term health and fitness in order to maintain weight loss for life.

Keys to long-term success after gastric bypass surgery include:

  • Limit portion sizes — you won’t be able to eat as much as you are used to eating
  • Stop eating when you feel full
  • Drink water throughout the day instead of waiting until you are thirsty
  • Avoid meat, fried, carbonated beverages, foods high in sugar and gassy foods
  • Commit to a regular exercise program

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