A gastric bypass surgeon performs gastric bypass surgery — a procedure conducted on patients who are obese and have been unable to lose weight using other methods. Gastric bypass surgery makes the stomach smaller than usual, so that the patient cannot eat as much food at one time. While there are other methods of weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, gastric bypass remains the most common procedure in the United States.
During a bypass surgery, a gastric bypass surgeon divides the patient's stomach into two portions. The smaller portion of the stomach is the part that the patient will continue to use when he or she comes out of surgery. Usually, the small portion can hold about a cup of food at a time. The purpose of reducing the stomach size during surgery is to restrict the amount of food a patient can eat in order to allow him or her to lose weight.
The second part of bypass surgery involves the actual bypass. Normally, the stomach is connected to the duodenum — the upper part of the small intestine. During the bypass portion of the procedure, which is also known as Roux-en-Y, the gastric bypass surgeon cuts the stomach away from the duodenum and reattaches it to a lower portion of the intestine, at the jejunum. When food passes directly from the stomach to the jejunum, the patient usually takes in fewer calories, which further increases his or her odds of losing weight.
A gastric bypass surgeon will usually perform the procedure laparoscopically by making only small cuts into the patient's abdomen. If necessary, the surgeon can also perform the procedure openly by making large incisions in the patient's stomach. Patients who receive the laparoscopic procedure usually have a shorter recovery time and reduced risk of complications. The experience level of the gastric bypass surgeon may also determine the patient's risk of complications from the surgery.
In order to become a gastric bypass surgeon in the United States, a person normally attends medical school for four years after completing an undergraduate degree. After completing medical school, the surgeons generally enter a residency program in bariatric, or weight loss, surgery. Residencies generally take a number of years. After completing a residency, a surgeon may apply to receive board certification. Gastric bypass surgeons are generally employed by hospitals, although some work at centers that focus exclusively on bariatric and gastric bypass surgery.