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

Susan Grindstaff

The main benefit of surgery for morbid obesity, also referred to as bariatric surgery, is that is has a high rate of success. Patients who undergo this treatment very often end up losing weight. Most medical experts agree that the risk associated with surgery for morbid obesity can sometimes outweigh the benefits. This type of surgery presents the same type of risks associated with any surgery, such as infection and reaction to anesthesia. In addition to common surgical risks, surgery for morbid obesity may also cause blood clots, food intolerance, and symptoms of malnutrition.

Three obese men.
Three obese men.

Surgery for morbid obesity frequently delivers good results in terms of actual weight loss. However, research shows patients who undergo these surgeries often have health issues related to nutrition. Sometimes the surgery can cause malnutrition, so it is usually advised that patients begin taking vitamin supplements. Dehydration is also considered a common side effect, so patients are generally urged to increase fluid intake.

Bariatric surgery has a high rate of success.
Bariatric surgery has a high rate of success.

Morbid obesity can be a life-threatening condition, and in some cases, surgery for morbid obesity can lower the risk of a wide range of health issues. Regardless of how it is accomplished, weight loss often reduces risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In many cases, weight loss may also improve a patient’s mental outlook, lowering incidence of depression and depression-related eating disorders.

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.

Before performing any type of surgery, doctors generally do a thorough risk assessment to determine if the patient is a good candidate for the procedure. It is important for doctors to determine if any health conditions could add to the risk of surgery. Sometimes with patients who are morbidly obese, health risks associated with obesity may outweigh the risk of surgery. For these patients, most experts agree that surgery for morbid obesity may be a good option.

There are basically two different types of commonly used surgical procedures for morbid obesity — gastric bypass and adjustable gastric banding. Gastric bypass surgery is the most common and has a longer history of use, and involves stapling the stomach to restrict the intake of food. Adjustable gastric banding is a type of laparoscopic surgery that adds a band to the middle of the stomach. The band is pulled tight to create a smaller stomach opening, which allows less food to be consumed. The band can be adjusted during the weight loss to allow for more or less food intake.

Adjustable gastric banding is a type of laparoscopic surgery that allows less food to be consumed.
Adjustable gastric banding is a type of laparoscopic surgery that allows less food to be consumed.

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