On the face of it, weight loss surgery, or WLS, sounds like a simple, quick fix for those with long term obesity. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Weight loss surgery is definitely not for those who want a quick fix or who simply don’t want to diet. Patients who undergo WLS often must adhere to strict dietary guidelines following surgery or they will be sadly disappointed in their weight loss results.
Exercise is also a key component in weight loss for those who opt for weight loss surgery, as it is for everyone. Patients who exercise at least thirty minutes a day following weight loss surgery lose weight thirty percent faster, as well as gain the overall health benefits of regular exercise.
If you only have ten or twenty pounds or even fifty pounds to lose, weight loss surgery is not an option. Patients considered for WLS must be at least 100 pounds overweight and have a BMI of at least 40. Sometimes patients who are about seventy-five pounds overweight with a BMI of 35 are considered if they also have a combination of certain co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, or sleep apnea.
When most people think of weight loss surgery, they think of gastric bypass – a procedure that reroutes the digestive system causing rapid weight loss. Unfortunately gastric bypass also often leads to nutritional deficiencies that can cause severe health complications.
Another type of weight loss surgery often performed is called gastroplasty. Gastroplasty is similar to gastric bypass because it reroutes digestive system, but it also restricts the amount of food that can be eaten by making the stomach smaller.
Neither of these procedures is reversible. Both gastric bypass and gastroplasty require a five to six inch incision and a hospital stay of three to four days. Potential side effects resulting from these types of weight loss surgery include “dumping syndrome” which is a combination of nausea, chest, and abdominal cramps, sweating, and diarrhea. Other risks and complications include malabsorption, vitamin deficiencies, and chronic abdominal pain. These symptoms are often avoided by eliminating foods that are high in sugar and fat from the diet.
A serious and potentially fatal complication of both gastric bypass and gastroplasty is called an anastomotic leak. An anastomotic leak occurs when there is a leakage at the staple line. This potentially fatal complication is often difficult to diagnose and requires immediate hospitalization. Fortunately, for the majority of weight loss surgery patients, this rare complication occurs in less than two percent of cases.
The potential risks and complications of gastric bypass and gastroplasty are enough to scare many morbidly obese patients away from what is often a life-saving surgery that results in weight loss and lowers the patient’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other potentially life threatening diseases.
But what if a weight loss surgical procedure was available that was minimally invasive, performed by laparoscope, did not cut or reroute any internal organs, and was completely reversible were available? Over 70,000 patients worldwide have chosen such a weight loss surgery. I was faced with this question last summer. It didn’t take long for me, after an entire lifetime from childhood to adulthood of being on the weight loss rollercoaster, to decide my answer was a definite “Yes.”
Exactly what did I say “Yes” to? I said “Yes” to a weight loss procedure, approved in the U. S. by the FDA in June 2001, called the Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding Procedure or Lap-Band. On May 10, 2004, I underwent this weight loss procedure. Today, almost four weeks later, I have lost twenty-seven pounds.