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What Are the Pros and Cons of Sleeve Surgery for Weight Loss?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Like most types of surgery, there are pros and cons to sleeve surgery for weight loss, a procedure that removes a large portion of the stomach. When compared to other types of weight loss surgery, this is often less invasive and can be done on many people who are considered too high risk for other procedures. Despite the positive aspects, there are some drawbacks. The amount of weight lost may not be dramatic or could be regained, the procedure is not reversible, and some may require a second surgery in order for the desired weight loss to occur.

Unlike other weight loss procedures, the sleeve surgery does not actually change the function of the stomach, making it less invasive than others. In most cases, the upper portion of the stomach is stapled off, and the rest of the stomach is permanently removed, oftentimes as much as 85% of the entire organ. As the function of the stomach is not technically changed in this procedure, it allows for more food choices than other types of bariatric surgery.

Traditional weight loss procedures are often considered unsafe for those with certain health issues such as anemia and Crohn’s disease, but sleeve surgery can be safe for those with these health issues. The risk of ulcers, gastric dumping syndrome, and leaks are significantly less with a sleeve surgery for weight loss, making many more patients eligible. Due to the lower risks, the surgery is also considered safer than most for patients with a substantial amount of weight to lose.

While the lack of change to the function of the stomach is considered to be generally beneficial, it can also result in slower weight loss. Unlike other bariatric procedures, liquid calories are still absorbable with sleeve surgery for weight loss. This may make weight loss slower and increase the chances of regaining weight if a strict diet and exercise routine are not followed.

With this procedure, a very large portion of the stomach is removed. As the organ is not replaceable, the surgery is non-reversible, which can be especially daunting for many patients. The basic premise of sleeve surgery for weight loss is making it incredibly difficult for a person to eat large amounts of any foods. Getting used to living like this can be difficult, and, even with the surgery, there is no way to go back if a patient finds life less enjoyable.

If the sleeve surgery does not work at all or well enough, another procedure may be needed in order to bring a patient to a healthy weight. Due to the fact that this procedure is typically used for those who need to lose a large amount of weight, the possibility of a second procedure is often high. In patients who need to lose significantly less weight, a secondary procedure may not always be possible, making sleeve surgery for weight loss not necessarily ideal if the patient cannot lose all the weight.

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