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Pros and Cons of Bariatric Surgery

Pros and Cons of Bariatric Surgery

When faced with such a huge decision, you may be asking yourself what are the pros and cons of bariatric surgery? Some people may only focus on the main benefit gained which is, of course, life-changing weight loss. But many others may not pay attention to the possible drawbacks. It takes time to find out if weight loss surgery is best for you, or which bariatric procedure is most suited for you.

Please speak with your surgeon to get all the information needed to make an informed decision. But here's an overview to help guide that discussion.

General Pros and Cons of Weight Loss Surgery

Pros

Weight loss

An obvious outcome of weight loss surgery is, well, weight loss.

It is clear, weight loss is the most known benefit of bariatric surgery. Whether your doctor recommends it to help with movement issues. Along with other health-related conditions. The main sought after goal of weight loss surgery is to lose weight.

Reduce the Impact of Health Conditions

In addition to weight loss seen after weight loss surgery, other benefits include reducing the impact of health-related conditions. For example, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

Cons

Hard Work

Weight loss surgery comes with a host of new responsibilities.

This is one of the most important cons of weight loss surgery to consider. Anyone who has gone through a weight-loss procedure can tell you that it is not a way out of proper diet and exercise. In fact, you will need to incorporate those two elements into your lifestyle before and after surgery. Your surgeon will likely want you to commit to a workout routine before even beginning the surgical procedure.

New Social Habits

Your social life after your procedure may be a drastic change. For example, if you enjoyed hitting up the buffet or going out with your family to eat on weekdays, you may find yourself feeling sad because you can no longer do this. You will begin to change how you view food and your relationship with it. Thus, your main social outings cannot continue to solely revolve around food. Instead, you can start to participate in social activities involving exercise or other non-sedentary activities. Doing so will be an adjustment for you.

Loss of Relationships

Continuing on the topic of changing social habits, one of the cons of weight loss surgery is the loss of relationships after changing how you spend your time with others. Relationships can dwindle. Especially if loved ones are not pleased with the lack of activities involving food.

The main bonding activity for some relationships can be food-related. According to a 2020 research study on this topic, individuals who went through a weight loss surgery saw greater incidences of divorce and separation as well as increased incidence of marriage and new relationships. Which means leaving behind relationships with unhealthy habits and starting new ones.

Excess Skin

Excess skin is a common result of successful weight loss.

Excess skin left after major weight loss is a huge burden to carry. But, there are a series of plastic surgery procedures available that can help remove excess skin from different places on the body. Doing so can take pounds off and improve mobility.

The plastic surgery options available for removing excess skin are a part of the body contouring category. Here are 5 common areas for excess skin removal:

  1. Stomach
  2. Chest
  3. Upper Arms
  4. Thighs
  5. Face

Having excess skin removed from the body is not just a cosmetic procedure. Getting rid of excess skin can help prevent chafing, rashes, and discomfort.

Weight Regain

The initial period of weight loss post-surgery is important for predicting success. But, it has been seen that some weight gain in the years following is common. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, patients may lose as much as 60% of excess weight within 6 months. Along with 77% of excess weight within 12 months after surgery. Long term success depends on multiple factors, including your starting weight, the surgery type, ability to follow a nutrition and exercise program, and more.

Now that we have looked at the general pros and cons of bariatric surgery, we can go into specific types of bariatric surgery pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of Gastric Bypass

Gastric bypass is one of the more popular types of weight loss surgery.

Otherwise known as a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. This weight loss procedure involves reconfiguring parts of the stomach and intestine. Resulting in them resembling a Y shape. The stomach is only able to hold an ounce of food after surgery due to it reducing stomach capacity.

Pros

  • Minimally invasive procedure
  • No device implanted
  • Rapid initial weight loss

Cons

  • Dumping syndrome is more common
  • Daily supplement intake to prevent deficiencies
  • Slightly higher risk of complications comparing to Sleeve gastrectomy

Gastric Banding

For this weight loss procedure, the surgeon places an inflatable silicone band around the upper part of the stomach. This band decreases the size of the stomach and helps you feel full with less food. Additionally, a tube from the band is attached to a port under your skin. The tube can be used to inflate and further tighten the band and decrease stomach space or deflate and loosen the band to expand stomach space.

Pros

  • Minimally invasive
  • Reversible and adjustable

Cons

  • Seen to have long-term complications that need further surgical procedures to fix
  • Not as effective for encouraging weight loss when compared to other forms of weight loss surgery

Pros and Cons of Gastric Sleeve Surgery

This weight loss procedure involves the removal of 80% of your stomach. This results in you having a stomach that is sewn together in the shape of a small banana.

Pros

  • Minimally invasive procedure
  • Less risk of complications
  • Recovery time is slightly shorter when compared with gastric bypass

Cons

  • Can cause acid reflux
  • Cannot be reversed

Duodenal Switch

Duodenal Switch is among the most complex and least performed weight loss surgery. Which makes it intriguing to consider. In this procedure, the surgeon removes 80% of the stomach. Then bypasses a portion of the small intestine. Finally, attaches the stomach to the first portion of the small intestine, the duodenum.

Pros

  • Results in greater weight loss and less chance of regaining weight
  • Seen in studies to be better at controlling type 2 diabetes along with other obesity-related conditions.
  • Lowers risk of marginal ulcers compared to risk after gastric bypass.

Cons

  • A more complex surgery
  • At greater risk for malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. When compared to needs after gastric bypass.
  • Only partially reversible. The part of the procedure that reduces the size of the stomach cannot be reversed.

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Kaelyn Johnson, MPH, RD

Author

Kaelyn Johnson is a Registered Dietitian who earned her Master of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University. She has worked in both a skilled nursing facility and an outpatient dialysis center.

Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Medical Reviewer

Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.