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What Are Duodenal Switch Surgeons?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 17, 2024
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Duodenal switch surgeons are bariatric surgeons specializing in this relatively uncommon type of weight loss surgery. These doctors typically use laparoscopic techniques to combine a reduction of the size of the stomach with a re-routing of the intestines. When performed properly, the procedure results in both a reduction of food intake and a significant reduction in the absorption of food by the intestines.

During surgery, duodenal switch surgeons remove most of the patient’s stomach. Unlike many types of weight loss surgery, the pyloric valve at the bottom of the stomach is left intact. This means that certain problems common in other types of bariatric surgery, such as dumping syndrome and stomach ulcers, are rare or nonexistent with this procedure.

Another important part of the operation performed by duodenal switch surgeons is the re-routing of the intestines. A portion of the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine, is left connected to the stomach. It continues, together with a small part of the rest of the small intestine, to the large intestine, where it is connected. Food is digested normally in the stomach, then travels through this shortened piece of small intestine and into the large intestine.

The part of the small intestines carrying the food from the stomach to the large intestine is deliberately cut off from the normal digestive juices secreted by the pancreas and liver. Duodenal switch surgeons also remove the gall bladder. Digestive secretions are carried through a second section of small intestine that rejoins the first section close to the point where it enters the large intestine. This means that very little digestion occurs in the small intestine, resulting in continuing weight loss for the patient.

One of the main reasons there are not many duodenal switch surgeons is the controversial nature of re-routing the intestines, deliberately causing malabsorption of food. While it is true that this can result in significant weight loss, it also results in a very high risk of nutrient deficiencies, putting patients at risk for many health problems. It is the prevailing feeling among many weight loss surgeons that this procedure is too risky.

For obese people interested in learning more about this surgery, the best place to start is to find bariatric surgeons who have experience with the procedure. A list of qualified weight loss surgeons should include a notation as to which ones are duodenal switch surgeons. Prospective patients should contact one or more of these doctors and investigate whether or not this surgery would be a reasonable procedure for them to undergo.

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