Types of Weight Loss Surgery

Some of you may be concerned about me because you have a friend or relative who had weight loss surgery and they’ve had nothing but complications for years. Or maybe they gained all their weight back after a while anyway so it wasn’t really worth it. But what you may not know is that there are different types of weight loss surgery, all with different risks, benefits, and success rates. And while all surgery has a risk, one has to determine if they think the benefits outweigh the risks. I think the type of surgery I’m getting has more benefits than risks and that coupled with healthy eating and exercise, I’ll be able to lose much of my excess weight and keep it off. Now you might be wondering:

What type of surgery am I getting?

The short answer:

Gastric Bypass

The long answer:

I don’t know a lot about every option out there, I only know about the 3 most common, but here’s a summary of each.

Surgeries I’m NOT getting:

Lap Band

Photo Credit: Edward Roberts

As you can see in the photo above, the lap band is an actual band that they put around the upper portion of your stomach to make it so you are not able to eat as much at once. Unfortunately, there is a risk of complications such as the band becoming too tight or slipping onto the esophagus. It also has a pretty low success rate. According to Obesity News Today, “Almost 70% of the patients don’t manage to lose the excessive weight, end up regaining the weight or need to have the band removed after ten years.” I don’t think Kaiser (my insurance) even provides this as an option. According to Obesity Coverage, the average amount of excess weight patients lose is 50%.  I assume some very little, some lose a lot, and some lose about half the weight they planned to lose. With all those risks and not a lot of benefit, this is not the best option for most obese people. But it is reversible and doesn’t involve a lot of cutting.

Gastric Sleeve

Photo Credit: Edward Roberts

This is the one where they actually cut off a portion of your stomach. They sew up the cut, leaving a “sleeve” of your stomach that holds about 4 ounces instead of the usual 32-ish (I’ve heard this number varies a lot) so you can’t eat nearly as much as before. This has a better success rate than the Lap Band. According to Obesity Coverage, patients with the gastric sleeve lose 60% of their excess weight on average. And it’s done laparoscopically so they don’t cut you wide open, they just stick the instruments and camera in through four small incisions. This is a pretty safe option with a pretty great success rate for those that continue with diet and exercise for the rest of their lives.

The surgery I AM getting:

Gastric Bypass also called Roux-en-Y

Photo Credit: Edward Roberts

This one is the most effective of the options and is still very safe. It’s more effective than the sleeve for a couple of reasons.  For one, it makes your stomach even smaller. About the size of an egg, it can only hold 2 ounces at a time. And second, they actually cut the intestine and connect it to the new stomach pouch, bypassing most of the stomach and a portion of the intestine that is responsible for absorbing nutrients and calories. So not only is your stomach tiny, but you also aren’t absorbing as much as you’re eating. This surgery has been done for decades and the average person loses about 70% of their excess weight with this surgery. Obviously your success rate is going to be higher the more you stick to your diet and exercise recommendations.

My surgeon has a higher success rate for his patients than the averages. He said that about 90% of his patients lose 80% of their excess weight. I’m assuming this is because of all the protocols he puts in place like mandatory seminars, support groups, diet, and follow-up office visits for years. I’m pleased with my decision and feel that I’m in good hands.

One thing the Dr. said in his seminar I attended was that most weight loss methods have very low success rates. I’d never thought of it before, but it’s very true. How often is everyone trying to lose a few pounds? How often is your (and my) New Year’s resolutions to buckle down and lose weight. It can be done, but it’s just so dang difficult to maintain that level of commitment for long enough to lose the weight and keep it off. With this surgery I’ll be eating much less, but also not absorbing everything that I eat. If I continue to eat the things I’m supposed to and stay active, I should be very successful. And I plan to.

For me, this surgery has been a long time coming. I’ve been very prepared through classes and research and I’ve tried many other methods of weight loss before settling on this as a last resort. And I’ve got plenty of support from doctors, friends and family. So there’s no need to worry, I’ll be just fine.

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