Bariatric surgery — It’s about more than weight loss

When you think of bariatric surgery, weight loss probably comes immediately to mind. And while weight loss is one benefit of this type of surgery, it’s not the only one.

Each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people undergo some type of bariatric surgical procedure — including 216,000 in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. These procedures, by and large, are successful, with most bariatric patients losing substantial weight, which is defined as 50 percent or greater of their body weight.

But while you may think of weight loss purely for aesthetic purposes, the weight loss attributed to these procedures benefits patients in many other ways.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic.

Bariatric surgery: Who’s a candidate?

Doctors use a set of national guidelines to determine a person’s eligibility for weight-loss surgery. In order to qualify, a person must:

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or be more than 100 pounds overweight
  • Have a BMI of 35 or higher and at least one obesity-related comorbidity (like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease)
  • Have an inability to successfully lose weight and keep it off for a length of time with previous non-surgical efforts

More than one-third of Americans today fall into the obese category, with a BMI of 30 or higher. That number has steadily risen over the past half century, since along with the genetic predisposition to obesity,  Americans often have less physical activity and eat more processed and unhealthy foods.

And obesity impacts far more than just a person’s appearance. Obesity brings with it a higher risk of developing many medical conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and certain types of cancer.

For those with severe obesity, BMI greater than 40,, it’s a catch 22 — it’s difficult or even impossible to lose the substantial amount of weight required to regain good health.

Understanding bariatric surgery

All types of weight-loss surgery have essentially the same goal, which is to help a person lose a large amount of weight.

Procedures all involve some type of change to the digestive tract, either making the stomach smaller or interfering with the body’s ability to absorb calories. Both methods can lead to weight loss.

But the benefits of these procedures go well beyond the appeal of a smaller waistline. People who have obesity experience a variety of health complications, ranging from difficulty getting around and pain to a lack of self-esteem. They’re also at a higher risk of developing many medical conditions.

Bariatric surgery has proven an effective means of mitigating most of those risk factors, limiting the effects of potentially serious medical conditions. In particular, weight-loss surgical procedures have been tied with positive impacts on Type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, in a survey of more than 100,000 patients with diabetes, bariatric surgery was found to:

  • improve Type 2 diabetes in almost 90 percent of patients by lowering blood sugar, improving diabetes-related health complications, and reducing the number or dosages of medications
  • cause Type 2 diabetes to go into remission in 78 percent of patients by reducing blood sugar levels to normal and eliminating the need for medication

Undergoing bariatric surgery and subsequently losing weight can also positively impact blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, gastrointestinal issues and sleep apnea.

The types of bariatric surgery

Above, we quickly touched on how bariatric surgery in general works. But each type of procedure is a little different, and every type of procedure requires lifestyle changes to achieve weight loss.

At the Erlanger Metabolic and Bariatric Center, we offer multiple procedures, including gastric bypass surgery, vertical sleeve gastrectomy and the intra-gastric balloon.

During the gastric bypass, often called the Roux-en-Y procedure, a portion of the stomach is stapled off, creating a smaller stomach pouch and reducing the amount of food that can be taken in. Part of the small intestine (in a Y shape) is then attached to the stomach, which allows food to bypass the first second of the small intestine, meaning fewer calories are absorbed.

During sleeve gastrectomy, a large portion of the stomach is removed so that the stomach becomes a long tube (or sleeve). Because the stomach is smaller, patients eat less.

Both surgical procedures have a positive hormonal impact by decreasing hunger hormones and increasing those that tell you brain you are full.

The intra-gastric balloon is a third option, and it doesn’t involve a surgery. During this procedure, a gastric balloon made of soft silicone and filled with sterile solution is placed in the stomach. The balloon, which is the size of a grapefruit, takes up space in the stomach and encourages healthier portion sizes. It is removed after a six-month period. During placement and the 6 months following, you work with a dietitian to incorporate healthy eating patterns.

Erlanger also offers management of already-placed adjustable gastric bands and can complete conversion surgeries to correct problems or complications after a bariatric procedure.

The Erlanger Metabolic and Bariatric Center is an accredited Comprehensive Center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. If you are interested in exploring options for weight loss, learn more here or call (423) 778-2906 to sign up for a free informational seminar or webinar.