What are the Pros and Cons of Bariatric Surgery for Obesity?

Lainie Petersen

While weight-loss surgery can help those who are unable to lose weight through traditional diets, complications and side effects can be serious and sometimes life-threatening. The benefits of bariatric surgery include its documented effectiveness in helping people to lose significant amounts of weight relatively quickly. The dangers of bariatric surgery for obesity are also well documented and can include surgical complications, nutritional deficiencies, and in some cases the regaining of lost weight. Due to the seriousness of the procedure, many medical professionals regard bariatric surgery for obesity as a last resort treatment for those whose weight poses a threat to their health and well-being.

Surgery should be a last resort when treating obesity.
Surgery should be a last resort when treating obesity.

For the morbidly obese, permanent weight loss is often extremely difficult, if not impossible. While some overweight people can enjoy long-term weight loss by making permanent changes in their eating habits or through the use of obesity medications, for many surgery may be the most effective way to reduce their weight and their best chance at keeping it off. As weight-loss surgery typically works by shrinking the size of the stomach and, in some cases, inhibiting the body's ability to absorb nutrients, including calories, those who have the surgery will inevitably lose some weight. This weight loss can improve the health and comfort of those who undergo bariatric surgery for obesity, even if the patient never achieves his ideal 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.

On the other hand, bariatric surgery for obesity can have unintended consequences. In any type of surgery, there is always the risk of complications, including infection, bad reactions to anesthesia, and slow healing. Some individuals who have undergone weight loss surgery have developed digestive tract problems that require additional surgery. More commonly, people who undergo bariatric surgery for obesity may experience digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as their body adjusts to the surgery. Even more troubling is the fact that many weight-loss surgery patients end up regaining the weight that they lost post-surgery.

Given the risks of weight loss surgery, it is important for patients and their doctors to compare the pros and cons of choosing a surgical weight-loss option. In many cases, doctors and hospitals that provide the surgery require a long preparation period, sometimes lasting six months or more, for patients considering bariatric surgery. Part of this waiting period includes education and counseling about the risks and side effects of the surgery and education as to the need for permanent lifestyle changes that can help the patient maintain her weight loss.

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