Why Bariatric Surgery for Weight Loss?

Obesity is a worldwide problem of increasing prevalence. Ideally, and in its less severe stages, obesity can be controlled with diet management and a regular exercise program. At times, obesity may be so severe that it is termed morbid obesity.

A personal look at obesity and its problems

Ervery person has a slightly different set of reasons for thinking about metabolic weight-loss surgery. Being 100 pounds overweight and wanting a change is not enough. Success requires proper support, commitment to diet and exercise, as well as approrpriate timing when life is already full of responsibilities.

Defining Morbid Obesity

Medically, the term, morbid obesity, is defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 kg/m^2. Although this calculation depends upon both an individuals height and weight, persons who are approximately 100 pounds over their ideal body weight are likely to be morbidly obese. Depending on the study, estimates for obesity in America may suggest that up to 35% of adults (or one in every three) suffers obesity and that from between 3-7% of the adult US population currently suffers from morbid obesity. Several life-threatening complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease are associated with this condition. Medical weight reduction practices often do not yield good results in these situations. Surgical intervention may be indicated to stop weight gain, achieve weight loss and reverse some of the obesity-related medical conditions described above.

Weight loss surgery, including gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and the Lap-Band are surgical procedures whose utility in combating morbid obesity are recognized by both medical and surgical specialists. Patients who have a BMI greater than 40 or those with a BMI of 35 or more who are also suffering from life-threatening illnesses curable with weight loss are considered as possible candidates for bariatric surgery.

The United States government also supports bariatric surgery in appropriate candidates, as Medicare will cover the costs of both the gastric bypass and gastric banding in appropriate candidates. Most insurance carriers will now cover the laparoscopic sleeve. Although the criteria that insurance carriers look for in determining whether or not an individual warrants this surgery vary, doctors generally agree on a set of qualifying criteria. The decision to proceed with surgery always represents a comparison between risks and benefits, as any surgical procedure involves some risk. Generally accepted criteria for proceeding with this type of surgery include that an individual have been obese for at least two years, be between the ages of 18 and 65 years and have no medical or psychiatric contraindications to undergoing surgery.

Obesity limits daily function

Morbid obesity is not just an inconvenience. Morbid obesity is a disease that shortens the average lifespan and also limits mobility and societal routines that many of us take for granted.

Candidates must also have failed a regimented and organized diet program. The length of this organized diet program varies across practitioners and insurers.Dr. Belsley current recommends a minimum of a 3 month program performed with your primary care doctor even if your insurance carrier does not have a time requirement. Other criteria include an organized set of measurements. Something to remember, however, is that is not acceptable to undergo bariatric surgery if you suffer from untreated depression or any other major psychiatric disorder.

Obesity is a serious disease with symptoms that build slowly over an extended period of time. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) define morbid obesity as: 

  • Being 100 pounds or more above your ideal body weight
  • Or, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater
  • Or, having a BMI of 35 or greater and one or more co-morbid condition

The disease of morbid obesity interferes with basic physical functions such as breathing or walking. Long-term implications of the disease include shorter life expectancy, serious health consequences in the form of weight-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and a lower quality of life with fewer economic and social opportunities.

Co-morbid Conditions

Bariatric surgery may improve some pre-existing health conditions. The presence of obesity increases the risk of a number of medical conditions, including cancer. A co-morbid condition is a health condition related to a primary disease such as obesity. There are many health conditions related to morbid obesity, but some of the most common are:

An emerging body of literature demonstrating relationships between maternal obesity and structural birth defects, including an increased risk of spina bifida and heart defects. These conditions occur more frequently in people with morbid obesity. Mortality rates from many of these conditions are also higher among people with morbid obesity.

Bariatric Surgery: A Tool

Bariatric surgery is intended for people who are 100 pounds or more overweight (with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater) and who have not had success with other, less risky weight loss therapies such as diet, exercise, and medications. In some cases, a person with a BMI of 35 or greater and one or more co-morbid condition may be considered for bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery has a history of helping patients effectively transform their health. Bariatric surgery restricts the amount of food patients can eat and, depending on the procedure, the number of calories and nutrients the body can absorb. As a tool, bariatric surgery has impressive long-term weight loss results and, in many cases, has resolved or improved co-morbid conditions.

Bariatric surgery should not be considered until you and your doctors have explored all other options. The best approach to bariatric surgery calls for a discussion of the following:

  • Bariatric surgery is not cosmetic surgery.
  • Bariatric surgery does not involve the removal of adipose tissue (fat) by suction or surgical removal.
  • You must understand the benefits and risks.
  • You must commit to long-term lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which are key to the success of bariatric surgery.
  • Complications after surgery may require further operations.

There are several different bariatric surgery procedures, but the two general ways in which they work are restriction and malabsorption:

Restriction limits the amount of food you can eat. Whether it is a gastric banding device around the stomach or the surgically-created, smaller stomach pouch that is created in both the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve, restriction ensures that the patient feels satisfied with less food.

Malabsorption limits the number of calories and nutrients your body can absorb. During malabsorptive procedures, the surgeon reroutes the small intestine so that fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed.

Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass, Lap-Band and the Sleeve

Patients who undergo bariatric surgery, either laparoscopic gastric bypass, the laparoscopic gastric banding or the laparoscopic gastric sleeve, experience significant weight loss after surgery. All three operations decrease the size of the functional stomach, causing an individual to feel full faster. This lowers the amount of food that one consumes and can significantly lower the number of calories consumed.

Gastric BypassLap-BandThe Sleeve

Weight Loss Strategy and Treatment

Diet
To lose weight, your body must burn more calories than you eat and/or drink. A diet plan should be based on your health and lifestyle needs, and would include reducing the number of calories you take in.

Exercise
Frequent and regular physical activity is beneficial to most anyone—whether they are pre- or postsurgery. Generally, an exercise program includes cardiovascular exercise such as walking, swimming, or cycling, strength training using resistance bands, weights, or machines, and stretching. Speak with your primary care physician before beginning any physical activity.

Exercise comes in many forms

Exercise and an active lifestyle are both important elements of maintaining a healthy weight. At the beginning be sure to choose low impact activities that protect your joints. You will find that as the pounds start to come off, exercise will become more enjoyable and fulfilling.

 

Medical Condition: 
Morbid Obesity
Medical Procedure: 
Bariatric Surgery
Speciality Classification: 
Surgical
Medical Entity Classification: 
Bariatric Surgery
MeSH Identifier: 
E02.065.062
National Library of Medicine: 
MeSH
Medical Audience: 
Patient
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