Americans, especially the population in our region of the country, are often overweight and frankly, obese. We tend to focus on food, making it difficult to stick to a diet. The weather makes it difficult to be outside and to participate in a regular exercise program. As a result, many obese men and women are opting for weight loss or bariatric surgery.
You may be a candidate for weight loss surgery if you’re an obese adult with a BMI greater than 40 (about 100+ pounds overweight) and especially if you have a weight-related condition such as type 2 diabetes.
Weight loss surgery works in one of the following ways: decreases the size of your stomach and/or stops your digestive system from absorbing some of the food and nutrients in your diet. All patients must be committed to post-operative lifestyle changes that are needed to keep the weight off.
The two common surgical treatments use either the open or the laparoscopic surgical method. Laparoscopy leaves smaller scars and tends to have fewer complications and quicker recovery time. For this procedure, the doctor only needs to make several small “keyhole” openings and see into the abdominal cavity with a lighted tool, called a laparoscope. Open surgery requires a larger, eight to ten-inch incision on your abdomen.
The gastric sleeve will remove 75% of your stomach and create a smaller stomach that holds less fluid and food. After the surgery, your stomach will only be able to hold about two to three ounces, and as a result, you’ll feel full and satiated sooner.
The lap band inserts an inflatable ring around the top of your stomach. The band squeezes part of the stomach to create a small pouch to effectively decrease the stomach volume. The band can be re-adjusted or removed at any time.
After surgery, you’ll be on a liquid diet. After a few weeks, you can begin eating solid foods. You’ll work closely with a nutritionist to create an eating plan. Usually, patients eat smaller portions and consume fewer calories. You’ll need to make sure you get enough nutrients, which may mean taking supplements.
Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or other weight-related health problems, these conditions are often related to obesity and may get better or go away after your surgery. Weight loss also can help arthritis, joint pain or sleep apnea.
It takes a long-term commitment to make the results last and keep the pounds off. So, you must make lifestyle changes you can live with forever. You’ll need to eat many small meals throughout the day and make good nutrition and exercise into daily habits.
People who’ve had weight loss surgery are at-risk for problems such as infection, blood clots, stomach ulcers, gallstones or not getting enough nutrients.
In areas where you lost weight, your skin may sag or be loose. You may want to consider plastic surgery to take up that extra skin.
Bottom Line: Weight loss surgery is not to be taken “lightly”! Make every effort to exhaust all non-surgical options first. If you’re thinking about surgery, talk to your doctor about whether it’s a good option for you.
Dr. Neil Baum is a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane Medical School and can be reached at 504 891-8454 or via his website, www.neilbaum.com