In a society that believes “thinner is better,” it is an emotional struggle to be obese. Aside from the interference with a happy life and high self-esteem, being overweight can cause many other health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea, hypoventilation, respiratory problems, heartburn and reflux disease, asthma, bronchitis, gallbladder disease, incontinence, arthritis and weakening of the joints, emotional and psychological disease and more.

If you are seriously overweight to the point that it affects your health and you have tried numerous diets and exercise plans and still cannot drop those unwanted pounds, surgery may be an option. To be considered for surgery you need to have a BMI (body mass index) of about 40 — around 80 to 100 pounds overweight.

Gastric Bypass Surgery helps promote weight loss by limiting the amount of food the stomach can hold by closing off or removing parts of the stomach and by causing food to be poorly digested and absorbed (malabsorption). In the gastric bypass procedure, a surgeon makes a direct connection from the stomach to a lower segment of the small intestine, bypassing the duodenum and some of the jejunum.

The benefits to surgery are:

Most patients lose weight rapidly and continue to do so for one and a half to two years after the procedure. Although most patients then start to regain some of their lost weight, few regain it all.

Surgery improves most obesity-related conditions. By removing the extra weight, the conditions may reverse themselves.

Recovery time is short: typically two days in the hospital, and 10 to 14 days to return to full activity.

Cosmetic results: Patient will look and feel better about herself.

Some risks to the surgery are:

10 to 20 percent of patients who have weight-loss operations require follow-up operations to correct complications. Abdominal hernias are the most common complications requiring follow-up surgery.

Many patients who have gastric surgery develop gallstones. Gallstones can be prevented with supplemental bile salts taken for the first six months after surgery.

Many patients develop nutritional deficiencies such as anemia, osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease. These deficiencies can be prevented and treated with vitamin supplements.

Women should avoid pregnancy until their weight becomes stable because rapid weight loss and nutritional deficiencies can harm a developing fetus.

Narrowing or ulceration of the connection between the stomach and the small bowel has been reported in one series in about 20 percent of all patients undergoing gastric bypass.

Fistulas (an abnormal passage leading from one hollow organ to another), abscess and infection have been seen in gastric bypass operations.

Dumping Syndrome — weakness, sweating, nausea, diarrhea and dizziness when eating sugary and sweet foods occurs in some patients.

Caffeine withdrawal headaches have been to shown to occur in many patients who drink coffee, tea or sodas.

Diarrhea

Short-Term Complications (in the first three to 14 days):

Nausea and vomiting
Death (under one percent mortality rate)
Pulmonary embolus
Leak, abscess and infection
Bleeding
Before receiving gastric bypass surgery, the physician will usually perform a series of tests; a Complete Blood Count (CBC), urinalysis, Glucose Tolerance Test (to check for diabetes), chest X-Rays, electrocardiogram and sometimes Pulmonary Function Testing, Echocardiogram, Sleep Studies, GI Evaluation or Cardiology Evaluation. Women will receive a vaginal ultrasound to look for abnormalities of the ovaries or uterus, and everyone receives a gallbladder ultrasound to look for gallstones.

Patients considering the surgery must be aware of the possible side effects and usually must undergo psychiatric evaluation prior to approval of surgery. Despite the long list of risks, the surgery is basically safe. Most of the risks are the same risks you would face when undergoing any other type of surgery. For many obese patients, it’s worth the risk to regain control of their lives again.

If you are considering gastric bypass surgery, be sure to get all the facts, discuss it with your physician and with your family. Be confident that surgery is right for you and that it will benefit your well-being.

Once you and your doctor have made a decision, be sure to follow all instructions carefully. You can have a happy and healthy life.

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