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Bariatric sleeve surgery: Why this procedure is growing in popularity

Lana Bandoim's picture

For individuals considering weight loss surgery for improved health, the choice is no longer between gastric bypass surgery and gastric banding, which is typically known as a lap band due to the laparoscopic method used to place the band. Now, doctors also offer the option of a gastric sleeve. Gastric sleeves can be a good option for patients seeking significant weight loss augmented by hormonal changes.

How it works

Gastric bypass surgery is sometimes known as stomach stapling because a section of the stomach is simply sectioned off to reduce the stomach volume. However, gastric sleeve surgery radically changes the structure of the stomach by removing about 70 percent of the volume and restructuring the stomach into a sleeve shape.

In addition to removing a significant portion of the stomach, gastric sleeve surgery also removes the section of the stomach that produces hunger-causing hormones. The gastric sleeve procedure combines reduced stomach volume and reduced hunger signals for maximum weight control.

Gastric sleeve procedure recipients typically achieve about 80 percent of their goal weight loss within three years after surgery, and their weight typically stabilizes within five years. The weight loss is steadier and less dramatic than what is seen with gastric bypass procedures and more like that associated with gastric bands. However, all patients find that they experience better cardiovascular health after surgery. Many also find they struggle less with conditions such as sleep apnea.

Gastric sleeve surgery is usually only recommended for extremely obese patients with a BMI over 40 who have failed to achieve weight loss with a healthy diet and exercise. It may also be recommended for patients with a BMI over 35 who have obesity related health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or sleep apnea.

The benefits

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Sleeve gastrectomy has significant benefits over both lap band and gastric bypass surgery including the fact that sleeving procedures have no risk of dumping syndrome. This is a frequent result of improper eating practices after surgery. Dumping syndrome occurs after gastric bypass when the stomach empties too quickly, and it can cause malnutrition and diarrhea.

Gastric sleeving surgery, like gastric banding, is also performed laparoscopically, meaning that patients have minimal scarring and pain and recover quickly. Usually, this means their recovery takes two to four weeks.

Finally, gastric sleeve surgery has been shown to have beneficial effects for patients struggling with type 2 diabetes, which is a frequent result of being overweight. According to research, this procedure produces greater glycemic control than medical therapies alone or gastric bypass surgery. Some patients are even able to transition off of diabetes control medications after the surgery.

The risks

The primary risk of gastric sleeve procedures is that they are not reversible. Since a section of the stomach is fully removed, once the sleeve is created, the only way to expand stomach volume again is by gradual stretching, which may result in post-surgery weight gain. Gastric bypass is also irreversible, but gastric bands can be removed or altered based on the amount of saline injected into the band.

Even without the risk of dumping syndrome, nutritional deficiencies are a risk of any weight loss surgery because the reduction in appetite and calorie consumption can also result in lowered intake of necessary vitamins and minerals. It is important to monitor your diet carefully after weight loss surgery to make sure you are receiving the right balance of nutrients.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, it is important to research your options and discuss their benefits or risks with your doctors. Weight loss surgery can be a powerful solution for patients struggling to lose excess weight, but you must understand the full implications of the procedure.

Image from Pixabay.com and used with permission.