Is surgery an effective option for losing weight? And what types of weight loss surgery are available?
Bridget Slusarek, BSN, RN, the nurse manager of University of Minnesota Health’s Weight Loss Management and Surgery program, says surgery is just one treatment option for weight loss.
“Surgery can be a good choice for people who need to lose a significant amount of weight,” she said. “But it’s important to have an evaluation from a care team to determine if surgery is option and, if so, which surgery is most suitable. Each one carries different benefits and risks.”
University of Minnesota Medical Center offers four types of weight loss surgery:
Slusarek described each of these options—including the key benefits and risks.
This procedure doesn’t require an opening or removal of any part of the stomach or intestines. Food passes through the digestive tract in the usual order, allowing the body to fully absorb the nutrients.
However, it is possible to “eat through” the operation and lessen its effectiveness. If patients don’t follow the prescribed diet, nausea and vomiting are likely. And because the band is a foreign body, a patient may need another procedure later in life.
This procedure doesn’t alter how the stomach functions or affect the intestines, so patients can consume most foods in small amounts. Patients also don’t experience dumping syndrome (rapid gastric emptying accompanied by cramps, nausea and diarrhea).
This procedure is not reversible because the surgeon removes part of the stomach. In addition, the leak rate (the risk that stomach contents will leak through the area affected by the surgery) is slightly higher with this procedure than with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
Surgeons have been doing this procedure since 1967, and studies show that it results in sustained weight loss and improvements in weight-related problems such as Type 2 diabetes.
But patients must take daily supplements to prevent chronic conditions such as anemia and B12 deficiency caused by poor nutrient absorption. Hypoglycemia can occur with intake of carbohydrates after this procedure as well.
This surgery can produce the greatest weight loss because it provides the most malabsorption—making it a good procedure for people who have a body mass index greater than 50, or are 200 or more pounds overweight. Patients can be successful at maintaining weight loss long-term if they follow a strict diet, exercise and behavioral plan.
But after this surgery, patients will need close, lifelong monitoring for protein malnutrition and bone diseases. Vitamins can cost more than $100 per month. Patients may also experience abdominal bloating, malodorous stool, gas and frequent bowel movements.
“There is no universal approach to weight loss,” Slusarek said. “Our goal is to help our patients find the right solution that brings the most benefits with the fewest risks.”
For more information about medical and surgical weight loss, visit our Weight Loss Management and Surgery program website.