People who are seriously obese and are unable to lose weight through diet and exercise may benefit from a gastric bypass surgery. Gastric bypass surgery is a procedure performed to people with high body mass index (BMI) including those with obesity-related health problems. Having a gastric bypass surgery means having a serious commitment to live a healthier lifestyle. People who had undergone gastric bypass surgery must:
- Significantly transform their lifestyle
- Exercise regularly
- Learn to manage portion sizes of food
Finding the right surgeon is important. For those people who are considering a gastric bypass surgery, it is important to know how skilled and experienced your surgeon is. The following questions may help you assess the qualification of your surgeon:
- What are his experiences and expertise?
- What is his success rate?
- How many gastric bypass surgeries (or other weight loss surgeries) had he performed?
- What resources can he provide before and after surgery?
- How often do his patients have complications? What are those complications?
The benefits of a gastric bypass include long-term weight loss, reduced or cured illnesses related to obesity, and improved mood and quality of life.
How Does Gastric Bypass Work?
- After recovering from the bariatric surgery, the patient feels full sooner after a meal because of the reduced stomach size.
- Fewer minerals and nutrients are absorbed by the body due to the rearranged intestines.
- Dumping syndrome puts off patients from eating unhealthy foods.
If a person qualifies for a gastric bypass surgery, the healthcare team will give instructions on how the patient will prepare for the procedure. Various exams and laboratory tests may be needed before the surgery.
Your healthcare team will also take your full medical history. If you have had past surgeries, particularly abdominal surgeries, make sure that you include it in your medical history. You should also indicate if you have certain allergies, and if you are taking any type of medication, and how long and often you have been taking it. Moreover, if you are a smoker, expect that you will be advised to stop for at least 30 days before your scheduled surgery. The reason behind this is that smoking can create respiratory problems during your operation.
There could also be restrictions on what to eat, drink, and which medications to take. The consumption of caffeinated drinks will also be stopped. Moreover, starting a physical activity program will be required from the patient.
A person who will undergo a gastric bypass surgery must be well-informed with the procedure and should be knowledgeable on what to expect after. The patient can talk to other people who had a gastric bypass surgery or can join support groups. These groups can provide support, anonymity, and essential knowledge about the surgery.
Researching regarding the insurance policy may also be done since not all insurance plans have coverage for gastric bypass surgeries and other weight loss procedures, including the pre and post operative doctor visits. Undergoing a gastric bypass surgery is not only about being physically prepared. The patient must also be prepared mentally and emotionally.
Preparations after the surgery can also be done. For example, setting an arrangement for help at home if the patient needs assistance or making a list of the things needed for the first few weeks after a gastric bypass surgery.
Preparing for Gastric Bypass Surgery
During the weeks prior to the gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon will ask the patient to have tests and appointments with other members of the healthcare team. Tests and visits usually involve:
- Pre-procedure health evaluation that includes medical history, surgical history, and medications.
- A complete physical assessment.
- Blood tests, gallbladder ultrasound, ECG (electrocardiogram), X-ray, and other tests – these are done to make sure that the patient is healthy enough to undergo surgery.
- Seeing the doctor will make sure that other present medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and lung or heart problems are managed before surgery.
- Nutritional counseling.
- A visit to a counselor is recommended to make sure that the patient is emotionally ready for the surgery. The patient must be able to do major lifestyle changes after the gastric bypass surgery.
- Classes that can help the patient learn what takes place during surgery, what to expect after the surgery, and what are the potential risks and complications after having the surgery.
Pre-surgery Diet Routine
- Two weeks before gastric bypass surgery – plenty of fluids, no sugar, increased intake of vegetables, lower carbs, and increased protein intake.
- Two days before gastric bypass surgery – clear liquids, one protein shake per day, broth, and any medications must be discussed with the surgeon.
- Two hours before gastric bypass surgery – strictly no eating, drinking, or smoking allowed.
Losing weight, as much as possible, prior to surgery is also vital because:
- The lower the patient's weight prior to surgery, the lower the risk of developing complications.
- The more weight a patient loses before surgery, the more weight will be lost afterwards.
- Gastric bypass surgery will not work for long if the patient slips back into his or her old habits. For about seventy percent of gastric bypass patients, consuming unhealthy foods can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and other uncomfortable symptoms. A patient with good and established exercise habits and diet prior to surgery is more likely to maintain that kind of lifestyle after surgery.
Prior to surgery, the surgeon will review all the potential risks and complications of the gastric bypass. It is highly encouraged that patients ask their surgeon if they have any questions with regards to their surgery.
The Risks of Gastric Bypass Surgery
A gastric bypass surgery is a major operation, thus, it comes with possible risks. For people who are obese or overweight, any kind of surgery puts them at risk. However, if the operation is performed by an expert and competent surgeon, the chances of achieving a successful outcome is high.
Risks related to the surgical procedure may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Leaks in the gastrointestinal system
- Lung or breathing problems
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – blood clots found in legs
- Pulmonary embolism – presence of blood clots in the lungs
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Death – in rare cases
A common potential risk of gastric bypass surgery is the “dumping syndrome.” Dumping syndrome occurs when huge amounts of food in the stomach travel too fast through the small intestine. It usually happens after eating sweet treats or foods that are high in fat. Dumping syndrome can result to:
Other risks and complications of a gastric bypass surgery include:
- Leakage of the surgical connection involving the stomach and the small intestine.
- Perforation of the stomach or small intestine.
- Gastric pouch obstruction or obstructed bowel.
- Internal bleeding or copious bleeding of the surgical wound.
- Pouch stretching – wherein the stomach gets bigger in the long run, returning to its original size.
- Breakdown of staple lines – this can reverse the procedure done.
- Band erosion – the band that closes the part of the stomach splits up.
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Leak of stomach contents into the abdomen.
Gastric bypass surgery is not the end of the journey. It is only the start of something new. A lifetime of committing yourself to live a healthier lifestyle is the most important key to a successful weight loss program.