Healthy Living

Am I a Candidate for Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Am I a Candidate for Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Key Takeaways

  • The individual’s body mass index (BMI) is a vital determining factor when identifying if the person is an appropriate candidate for gastric bypass.
  • There is no specific age required for those who want to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
  • Gastric bypass is not a cosmetic surgery.

Gastric bypass surgery is the best-known type of weight loss surgery. The aim of gastric bypass surgery is to restrict how much food a person can eat and how much nutrients to absorb. The result of this procedure is weight loss.

Gastric bypass surgery is not designed for everyone who wishes to lose weight or shape a certain body part. Gastric bypass surgery is intended as a major tool for weight loss to help people suffering from obesity as well as those with obesity-related health problems.

What are the guidelines to qualify for a gastric bypass surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery, as well as other weight loss surgeries, is a major and life-changing procedure. Gastric bypass not only helps with weight loss, but it can also help lessen the risk of health problems related to being overweight and obesity such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, which can pose harmful risks and complications.

To become a candidate for gastric bypass surgery, there are certain guidelines that must be met. People who want to undergo gastric bypass surgery will go through an extensive screening process to assess if they qualify for the procedure.

In general, gastric bypass surgery is an option if:

  • Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher (extreme obesity).
  • Having a BMI of 35 to 39.9 (obesity) with serious weight-related health condition including sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Attempts to lose weight with exercise and diet but were not successful.
  • At least 18 years of age.

The individual’s body mass index (BMI) is a vital determining factor when identifying if the person is an appropriate candidate for gastric bypass. Although the body mass index does not specifically show the person’s body fat percentage, it is a helpful tool when categorizing the overall body weight that is in accordance with the accepted standards.

There are also some instances where people with a body mass index of 30 to 34 with serious weight-related medical problems may qualify for gastric bypass.

For women who are in their childbearing age or if they plan to get pregnant, it is important to know that getting pregnant within the first eighteen to twenty-four months following surgery is not recommended. The reason is that the nutritional deficiencies and rapid weight loss associated with gastric bypass surgery make pregnancy very unsafe for the developing fetus and the mother.

Evaluation for Gastric Bypass Surgery

Meeting only the general guidelines is not sufficient to be able to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. Other medical guidelines must still be met to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. An extensive screening process will be done to see if a person truly qualifies.

A team of healthcare practitioners including a physician, dietitian, surgeon, and psychologist, will assess whether gastric bypass surgery is appropriate for the needs of the person who wants to undergo such procedure. The healthcare practitioners will consider the following factors when conducting an assessment for gastric bypass surgery:

  • Weight history and nutrition – weight trends, eating habits, stress level, motivation, diet attempts, exercise regimen, time constraints, and other factors will be reviewed by the team.
  • Medical condition – there are some medical problems that can increase the patient's risk factors of undergoing bariatric surgery or can be worsened by surgery. These include blood clots, heart problems, nutritional deficiencies, liver disease, and kidney stones. The team of healthcare professionals will evaluate the drugs that the patient takes, a patient's alcohol consumption, and verify if the patient smokes or not. A thorough laboratory testing and physical examination will also be done. The results of the tests and examinations can help determine if the person is eligible to undergo bypass surgery or not.
  • Psychological status – some mental health problems can contribute to obesity, which makes it difficult for a person to sustain the health benefits of gastric bypass surgery. The disorders may include depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, binge-eating disorders, and issues that are related to sexual abuse during childhood. These problems may not prevent a person from having a gastric bypass surgery, however, the surgery may be postponed until any of the conditions mentioned are managed and treated appropriately.
  • Motivation – the person’s willingness and ability to follow instructions and recommendations made by the healthcare team will be assessed. In addition, the person’s ability to carry out the prescribed changes in the diet and exercise habit is assessed.
  • Age – there is no specific age requirement for those who want to undergo a gastric bypass surgery. However, the risks are much higher among older people.

Gastric Bypass Surgery: Advantages and Disadvantages 

Just like any other surgical procedures, gastric bypass surgery has its own advantages and disadvantages. If a person is not morbidly obese, gastric bypass surgery risks outweigh the benefits.

Advantages

  • Weight loss – most people who had gastric bypass surgery lose weight quickly and continue to lose more weight within two years.
  • Improved health – obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea may be improved.
  • Improved quality of life – gastric bypass surgery can help improve the psychological health and overall mood of the patient. Anxiety and depression are reduced, and the energy of the patient is increased.

Disadvantages

After undergoing this type of bariatric surgery, the patient must have a lifelong commitment when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle and diet for the surgery to be effective. 

Since a gastric bypass generally changes the digestive system's way of absorbing nutrients, a patient may become malnourished if he or she does not take the necessary nourishment that is needed by the body. For this reason, additional supplements such as vitamins and minerals are needed to be taken for the rest of their lives. Moreover, it is also observed that due to the rapid loss of weight, gallstone formations are seen among gastric bypass patients.

During gastric bypass surgery, there are risks that could develop. Complications after surgery are also possible. Risks may include infection, acid reflux, dilation of the esophagus, obstruction in the stomach, and rapid gastric emptying or dumping syndrome, which is the most common complication of gastric bypass surgery.

Is gastric bypass surgery for you?

Gastric bypass surgery is not for everyone, especially for those who are not really obese. Moreover, it is not a miraculous procedure that quickly fixes obesity. It can, however, greatly transform a person’s lifestyle. Undergoing a gastric bypass surgery does not guarantee that all of the excess weight will be lost or that losing weight will be kept in the long run. Neither is it a technique to keep away from diet and exercise. As a matter of fact, the weight lost through gastric bypass surgery can still be regained if necessary lifestyle changes were not followed.

Gastric bypass surgery is not an end of treatment. After surgery, the patient is required to participate in a long-term follow-up arrangement that includes behavior and lifestyle modifications, proper nutrition, and optimal overall health condition. People who had gastric bypass surgery are required to eat healthy foods, do daily exercises, and control the portion sizes of the foods that they will eat.

Remember, gastric bypass is not a cosmetic surgery. It does not involve the removal of adipose tissues. Therefore, if you think that gastric bypass surgery is right for you, talk with a bariatric surgeon, who is an expert in gastric bypass surgery, to discuss some weight loss procedures and see what’s right for you.