Gastric bypass is commonly known by several names, including bariatric surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. This surgery has been brought to the forefront of public attention by popular figures such as Al Roker on the Today Show. Contrary to public perception, gastric bypass surgery is a drastic procedure meant for patients struggling with obesity of the most serious nature.
Those considering gastric bypass typically have a body mass index (BMI) over 40, usually a minimum of 80 lbs. overweight for women and 100 lbs. for men. Others who may be considered include patients with Type II diabetes or severe cardiopulmonary complications related to obesity.
Candidates for gastric bypass usually have a lifelong history of struggle with weight loss and cannot lose weight by traditional means of diet and exercise. Weight loss through this surgical method occurs by seriously restricting the amount of food that the patient can consume. When combined with healthy behaviors, the results can completely transform the individual for the rest of their life.
The earliest method of surgery used for obesity was developed about 40 years ago after doctors treating patients with severe ulcers or cancer realized that removing certain parts of the intestines caused significant weight loss. The early methods produced results but often led to malnutrition and even death because food was being poorly digested or not absorbed at all. This method is not used anymore.
Todayís gastric bypass procedures are much improved and there are several different methods of surgery used to treat obesity. There are two types of restrictive surgery that alter the digestive process by closing parts of the stomach and making it much smaller.
In adjustable gastric banding (AGB), a hollow band is placed around the upper end of the stomach, creating a small pouch and a narrow passage into the larger remainder of the stomach. The hollow band filled with saline and then can be tightened or loosened over time to change the size of the passage by increasing or decreasing the amount of saline. The second method, Vertical banded gastroplasty (VGB) uses both a band and staples to create a small stomach pouch. This method is much more common than AGB.
Common side effects of restrictive surgery include vomiting caused by overeating or not chewing well enough, band slippage, saline leakage (with AGB), or deterioration of the band or staple line. Some patients regain the weight they lost as a result of failing to change their habits.
Following the procedure, weight loss is rapid and dramatic. Nutritional supplements are absolutely essential for good health following the surgery. Most patients maintain a long-term loss of about 100 lbs. All patients who undergo gastric bypass of any kind must closely monitor their nutrition and diet for the rest of their lives. Gastric bypass surgery is NOT a quick fix for obesity, it is a last chance for the most extreme cases.