Bariatric Surgery for Weight Loss: Rehabilitation and Dangers

When all other options fail, those who are obese for some reason resort to bariatric surgery. It is a kind of obesity treatment which implies either restriction of food intake per meal, or forcing your GI tract become less efficient at nutrient absorption. While all these means of treatment may yield significant results, they often lead to health problems.

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Who needs it

Bariatric surgery is a radical way to treat obesity. Since three out of four commonly used types of surgery are either very difficult or even impossible to reverse, bariatric surgery is used only when dieting, counseling and other routinely advised ways to get rid of extra pounds prove to be fruitless.

Among its contraindications is a BMI lower than 30. In most cases, it is extremely obese people who decide to take the risk and alter their gastrointestinal tract. For example, Eman Ahmed, a woman from Egypt who weighed around 500 kg and was one of the heaviest people in history, underwent bariatric surgery in 2017 and lost about 325 kg. Eventually, she managed to reduce her weight to 100 kg or even less. By that time, the morbid obesity she used to suffer from had taken toll on her health, and she died from kidney dysfunction and cardiovascular problems caused by it. Another example is Paul Jonathan Mason who underwent gastric bypass surgery and got rid of about 330 kg of fat and loose skin as a result.

However, bariatric surgery is often used by those who do not suffer from morbid obesity yet but are on their way to it.

Surgery types

There are four most commonly used types of this kind of surgery. These are the following:

  • An adjustable gastric band. The least dangerous form of bariatric operations, it is reversible. An inflatable band is placed on the stomach to create a pouch and thus limit the amount of food you can consume at a time.
  • Gastric sleeve. An irreversible option. It implies removal of 80% of the stomach, leaving only a 2-cm long pouch.
  • Gastric bypass. Again, it implies a lot of modifications to the GI tract. While reversible, it is very difficult to return the GI tract to its original state should such a need arise. By stapling the stomach, the surgeon creates a small pouch to which a part of the small intestine is then attached. The remaining part of the stomach is not removed and keeps on producing juices. It is connected to the lower part of the small intestine.
  • Duodenal switch. It is rarely used, as it is the most dangerous option of all the four, and calls for even more serious interventions and modifications, which lead to reduction of nutrient absorption by nearly 90%.

What happens after surgery

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Bariatric surgery–perhaps, except for gastric bands–irrevocably changes a patient’s life. If you think that all it takes is to endure surgery and the subsequent painful rehabilitation period, you are wrong.

Post-bariatric rehabilitation actually never stops. Once your stomach has been altered, you will have to stick to a healthy diet for the rest of your life, give up bad habits, and maintain a decent level of physical activity. Surgery can help you suppress your hunger by physically limiting the amount of food your body can process, but it does not mean you are guaranteed success.

Post-surgery treatment is also needed. If it is a gastric band, it requires frequent adjustments to determine to what extent it should be inflated. Regardless of surgery type, rehabilitation is a life-long process which invariably forces you to switch to a healthy lifestyle. Besides, you will have to take supplements, because your body will suffer from vitamin deficiencies.

What complications may follow

  • Leaking from the areas where staples are located
  • Infection
  • Diarrhea (due to malabsorption and other problems)
  • Malabsorption and lack of nutrients, which, in their turn, cause anemia and osteoporosis.
  • Gallstones resulting from rapid weight loss
  • Psychological problems
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Increased risk of alcoholic dependence

The list above and table below are definitely food for thought. If there is still such an option, try to lose weight by means of discipline, not surgery. Following a healthy diet, exercising, and working on your willpower are always an option, especially if counseling is added to the treatment program.

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