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What is Bariatric Surgery?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bariatric surgery is a surgery designed to help patients achieve significant weight loss. The surgery restricts the amount of food patients can eat and diminishes caloric intake. It is designed for patients who have a history of failed dieting attempts and a Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeding 40. Patients who have bariatric surgery are usually between 18 and 60 years of age.

Bariatric surgery is an option to alleviate debilitating diseases caused by morbid obesity. Patients who intend to undergo this surgery must be highly motivated. They must be able to adhere to diet, exercise, and medical guidelines for the rest of their lives after surgery.

There are several types of bariatric surgery available, but they fall into three basic categories. Adjustable gastric banding, or vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG), is designed to reduce the size of the stomach with the use of an adjustable silicon band. The weight loss is achieved by limiting the amount of food and liquids the patient can ingest.

Another bariatric surgery is Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. With this type of surgery, a small pouch is created and connected to a short portion of the small intestine. While the normal stomach size is that of a melon or football, the gastric bypass reduces the stomach to the size of an egg. The smaller pouch encourages the patient to eat less food. Also, because parts of the stomach and small intestine are bypassed in the digestive process, the body absorbs fewer calories.

The Roux-en-Y bypass has been performed for many years. It can now be performed using laparascopic techniques, which are minimally invasive. This means a shorter recovery time, fewer stitches, and lowered risk of infection.

Another type of bariatric surgery is the biliary-pancriatic diversion/duodenal switch. This surgery shortens the length of the small intestine and may divide the stomach. This results in limited storage capacity and weight loss through the malabsorption of ingested food.

Undergoing bariatric surgery is major decision to make. It will have implications on your eating habits and lifestyle for the rest of your life. You must be well motivated and committed before considering bariatric surgery. Most medical insurance plans cover this type of surgery if you are above the BMI qualifying criteria. However, some insurance plans have exception clauses and should be well researched before applying.

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