What are the Different Types of Obesity Surgery?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke
An illustration of a human stomach. Obesity surgery often makes the stomach smaller, so people feel fuller sooner.
An illustration of a human stomach. Obesity surgery often makes the stomach smaller, so people feel fuller sooner.

Obesity surgery refers to any type of medical procedure that is used to make a person lose weight by physically altering the structure of his or her digestive system, particularly the small intestine and stomach. Although the exact guidelines may vary depending on the country and the specific medical professional, a person is generally considered to be obese if he or she has a high percentage of body fat. Being obese can have serious health consequences, including diabetes and heart disease. Obese people who have been unsuccessful at losing a significant amount of weight on their own may be eligible to undergo obesity surgery to assist them in losing weight.

A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.

One of the most widely performed types of obesity surgery is known as gastric bypass, or stomach stapling. This surgery is done by a surgeon who reduces the size of the stomach through the use of staples. The stomach is stapled until just a small opening near the center of the small intestine remains. Since the amount of available room in the stomach is made drastically smaller, it causes a person to feel more satisfied with reduced amounts of food. Although gastric bypass is intended to make weight loss simpler, it can also have side effects including nausea, vomiting, and even malnutrition in some cases, if the body does not absorb enough nutrients from food.

Gastric bypass, which involves stomach stapling, is one of the most commonly performed obesity surgeries.
Gastric bypass, which involves stomach stapling, is one of the most commonly performed obesity surgeries.

Another common obesity surgery is gastric banding. It is similar to gastric bypass, except that a surgeon reduces the size of the stomach through the use of a flexible band. The band is positioned around the area of the stomach just beneath the esophagus, the part of the digestive system between the throat and stomach. Gastric banding is not permanent and the band can be adjusted to increase or reduce the size of the stomach. It has some of the same side effects of gastric bypass, including vomiting and nausea, but is not thought to keep the body from absorbing nutrients.

Biliopancreatic bypass is a type of obesity surgery that is not done as often as gastric bypass or gastric banding because it is more invasive and permanent. This type of surgery actually involves a surgeon cutting away a piece of the stomach to reduce its size. The remaining portion of the stomach is attached to the lower portion of the small intestine, rather than the top of it, in order to decrease the amount of food the stomach can hold. Biliopancreatic bypass has a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies since the length of the digestive system is lessened.

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    • An illustration of a human stomach. Obesity surgery often makes the stomach smaller, so people feel fuller sooner.
      An illustration of a human stomach. Obesity surgery often makes the stomach smaller, so people feel fuller sooner.
    • A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
      A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
    • Gastric bypass, which involves stomach stapling, is one of the most commonly performed obesity surgeries.
      Gastric bypass, which involves stomach stapling, is one of the most commonly performed obesity surgeries.