Updated September 2020 | Written by the Public Education Committee
Why Weight Loss Surgery?
Obesity is a common disease in the United States and the world. When a person has severe obesity, as with many other medical problems like heart disease and kidney disease, surgery can be the most effective treatment.
Many patients with obesity have tried to treat this on their own, with diet and exercise. Many have had some success, only to have weight regain. More often, patients have little to no success with diet and exercise alone. This is not a result of lack of willpower or the wrong diet. When a patient has a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35, their chances of reaching a normal body weight for a lasting period of time is less than 1%. That’s why surgery is an option for patients with severe obesity. Unfortunately, many patients who could benefit from surgery don’t know if surgery is right for them. Only about 1% of people who qualify actually get surgery in any given year.
Who Is A Candidate For Weight Loss Surgery?
Weight loss surgery does not just treat the disease of obesity, but it treats other conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and acid reflux. In addition, surgery greatly reduces the risk of death from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases.
How Does Weight Loss Surgery Work?
Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and duodenal switch work by changing the anatomy (or position) of the stomach and small intestines. This causes changes in appetite, satiety (feeling full), and metabolism (how the body burns calories).
Many of the hormonal signals that cause weight gain or inability to lose weight are affected by these procedures, and it becomes easier to lose weight. But this still requires a healthy diet and a good exercise routine. These procedures are tools to treat a chronic disease, and cannot work alone.
Long Term Weight Loss
Around 90% of patients after bariatric surgery lose 50% of excess body weight and keep this extra weight off long-term.
When patients start to lose weight after surgery, they also feel more energetic, less pain, and more enthusiasm for doing things they have not done in years. The significant and rapid weight loss after surgery can lead to changes in hormones and lead to even more weight loss. Staying consistent with an exercise routine can improve weight loss and weight stability after surgery.
Living Longer After Weight Loss Surgery
In large scientific studies of hundreds of thousands of patients, weight loss surgery has been shown to lower a person’s risk of death from any cause by over 40 percent.
Decades ago, weight loss surgery was seen as high risk and the rewards were seen as mostly cosmetic. This is completely incorrect. The risk of death due to surgery is very low in the first year after surgery, about the same as gallbladder surgery. Surgery for weight loss lowers the risk of death related to many diseases including heart disease (40% lower), diabetes (92% lower), and cancer (60% lower) are also significantly reduced. Comparing the risks of surgery to the benefits of surgery makes the decision for surgery much easier to make.