Weight Loss Surgery-Is it Right for You?

In the last decade weight loss surgery has become a very hot topic for everyone from celebrities to the person next door. As obesity becomes a quickly progressing serious problem in the United States, people are trying to deal with their weight problems in increasingly more drastic ways. Dieting has been popular for decades, with low-carb, low-fat, high-protein, and other fad diets each taking place of the other in popularity-but weight loss surgery has always been a "last resort" method reserved for the morbidly obese.

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But today, with people looking for quick-fixes to every type of problem, this type of weight loss surgery may appeal to some initially. However, any time surgery is involved, especially a surgery of this magnitude, very careful thought and consideration should be done before even talking to the doctor-and more careful thought and consideration after talking to the doctor. Weight loss surgery can be very risky, and even after it is completed successfully it represents a life-long commitment to weight control.

There are basically two kinds of weight loss surgeries available: restrictive and bypass. Each of these types of surgeries has a few different variations but they work based on the same principles. Here are the basics:

Restrictive: This type of weight loss surgery involves restricting the amount of food that your body digests and also slowing down the digestive process, to limit the amount of nutrients (and calories) your body absorbs.

The two types are: Vertical Banded Gastroplasty (VBG,) and Laparoscopic Gastric Banding or Lap Band Surgery. Here is a brief description of each type of restrictive weight loss surgery:

VBG: A vertical line of staples is placed in the stomach in this weight loss surgery, dividing the stomach into two parts. The upper, smaller part is where the food goes first limiting the amount the person can eat. A band restricts the amount of food that goes down to the lower part, slowing digestion.

Lap Band: For this type of weight loss surgery, a band inflated with saline solution is placed around the stomach limiting the amount of food the patient can eat. Although the band is adjustable over time, it is meant to be permanent.

Bypass: This type of surgery is accomplished by bypassing some part of the digestive system to limit the amount of nutrients and calories absorbed. In Roux en Y Gastric Bypass Surgery, the most popular bypass weight loss surgery in the U.S., a pouch is formed in the top of the stomach with staples, bypassing the lower part of the stomach and the upper small intestine and connecting it to the lower small intestine.

The other type of bypass weight loss surgery is more commonly practiced in Europe and it is called Biliopancreatic Diversion (BPD), in which a large part of the stomach is removed and all but a small part of the small intestine is removed. Bile and pancreatic juices are diverted to the intestine to digest the food just prior to its entering the colon, which does not digest.

Risks with any of these surgeries include nausea, infection, blood clots, and blockage in the lungs, diarrhea and even death among others. Counseling and other therapy is recommended for all patients before and after the surgery. It is not a decision to be made lightly.

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