Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is a small range of operations performed on severely overweight patients to cause weight loss. Having a BMI of 40 is usually a pre-requisite for the operation, the idea being that anyone below that mark is potentially capable of losing the weight by themselves. (Bariatric refers to the branch of medicine that deals with obesity and obesity related conditions.) The figure is reduced for people who have serious, potentially life-threatening conditions alongside the extra weight, meaning that a BMI of 35 is enough for them to qualify. Some patients, desperate to qualify, have even been known to deliberately gain extra weight to put them into the right figures – a dangerous practice indeed.

Types of surgery

The process can be either a reversible solution or a permanent one, but the safest process is the one known as the gastric band process. A band is placed around the stomach, physically preventing the patient from eating more than a mouthful or two at a time, thus forcing them to adopt smaller portion sizes.

Gastric bypass and stomach reduction are both permanent weight reduction treatments, the latter being the removal of a large part of the stomach, and the former being a redirection of the food eaten through a smaller part of the stomach and then into the intestines, missing out the duodenum. This process can be partially reversed in the case of patients who cannot tolerate the new digestive set-up, but this process is not allowed freely, there must be strong medical evidence for it to go ahead.

For those who are severely overweight and completely lacking in any dieting willpower an operation can be a blessing and a lifesaver. If the patient is able to lose the weight more naturally so much the better – there are always risks with any operation and those risks increase with every extra pound carried.

After the surgery

Following the surgery, patients are generally restricted to a clear liquid diet which can include gelatine, clear soups and diluted fruit juices. This is to give the digestive system time to heal and adjust to the new way of working. Gradually mashed potato, milkshakes, cream soups and other slightly thicker foods can be reintroduced. Gradually the diet can return to normal, but a high protein diet is strongly recommended as the quantities of food eaten will remain small. A multi-vitamin tablet every day for life is usually on the cards too, as the new digestive system will not be able to draw the full nutrient compliment from foodstuffs alone.