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Understanding Bariatric Surgery

Written by Christopher Taglia, MD, FACS, DABOM on in Blog

Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, can be an essential step toward improved health. This primer reviews the types of bariatric surgeries available at Lompoc Valley Medical Center and how they work.

Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, can be an essential step toward improved health. This primer reviews the types of bariatric surgeries available at Lompoc Valley Medical Center and how they work.

Your physical appearance and your inner identity are not the same. However, your biological makeup can have a significant influence on your internal health. If you have more body mass than can be supported by your bones and joints, it can cause you chronic pain, discomfort, and daily challenges. Having more body mass can also set you up to develop illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

The field of bariatric medicine is specifically tailored to help patients address their body weight and achieve weight loss to live healthier pain-free lives. At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we know that your weight is not your identity, nor is it a life sentence. If you have a weight loss goal, our bariatric team at the Medically Assisted Weight-Loss Program is here to support you every step of the way.

Here's what you need to know about bariatric surgery.

The Origins of Bariatric Surgery

You may have heard of the term "bariatrics" but are unsure about what exactly it references. The concept of bariatric medicine comes from the Greek language—"baros" means "weight," and "iatrikos" means "medicine." Bariatric medicine and bariatric surgery are specialized categories of medicine dedicated to helping people with obesity lose weight to have healthier futures and suffer less from chronic disease.

What Are the Health Consequences of Being Obese?

Getting your weight into a healthy body mass index (BMI) range can help you avoid future health consequences such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. Severely elevated BMI, also known as obesity, can put you at risk of other illnesses, such as cancer, chronic pain, and mental health conditions. Often, patients who are obese face weight loss barriers, and they cannot achieve their desired body weight through diet and exercise measures alone. This is how the field of bariatric surgery can support people in their weight loss journey.

What Is a Bariatric Surgery Evaluation Like?

If you are considering bariatric surgery as a weight-loss option, it can be intimidating. There are different kinds of weight loss surgeries, and it can be confusing to figure out which option may be best for you. At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, our bariatric specialists do not jump straight to bariatric surgery when considering a patient's weight loss goal.

During a bariatric surgery evaluation, we work together with each patient, considering their medical history, surgical history, genetics, and weight loss goals. We will perform a physical exam and consider baseline blood work and other diagnostic tests to gather as much information as possible about each patient's health status.

After this comprehensive evaluation, we will create a customized weight loss plan. This may include a diet and exercise change, as well as prescription medications. Sometimes we may recommend a trial of these measures before considering weight loss surgery. Other times, we may use them in combination with a weight loss surgery to best serve patients and their future health.

What Makes a Person Eligible for Weight Loss Surgery?

Whenever bariatric surgeon performs surgery, they want to ensure that it will cause more good than harm. For this reason, bariatric surgery decisions are made with careful consideration and specific criteria set by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. These include each patient's specific BMI, any accompanying chronic medical conditions, and any prior weight loss attempts.

What Are the Different Types of Weight Loss Surgery?

Bariatric surgeons help their patients lose weight, including sleeve gastrectomy, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, adjustable gastric band, and Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch. At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, our bariatricians specialize in the first two procedures, as they are well-studied and have excellent outcomes.

What Is a Sleeve Gastrectomy?

A sleeve gastrectomy is a surgery that can help you lose weight by reducing the size of your stomach. When your stomach is smaller, it fills with food faster, which sends signals to your brain that you are full. This means that you lose weight because you eat smaller amounts of food and fewer calories. During a sleeve gastrectomy, 80 percent of the stomach is removed. Surgeons make sure to remove the specific part of the stomach that produces the hormones that fuel your appetite—this way, your desire to eat is reduced, as well.

What Happens During a Sleeve Gastrectomy Procedure?

One of the benefits of a sleeve gastrectomy is that it is very safe and straightforward. It is typically done "laparoscopically," which means that a surgeon makes small incisions in your abdomen so that they can see your stomach and manipulate it without making a large opening. During the procedure, your abdominal cavity is filled with air so that the stomach is more visible. A surgeon loosens the organs around your stomach and then uses a special tool to remove the stomach tissue. The tool places staples as it removes tissue, which creates a robust surgical seal. This technique is very straightforward and does not take a long time to perform. It is ideal for anyone who has high-risk medical conditions, who may not manage a longer or more complicated operation.

What Is Life Like After a Sleeve Gastrectomy?

After a sleeve gastrectomy, you may have less of an appetite daily and may feel full faster when eating food. If you've had heartburn in the past, your heartburn maybe a little worse, or you may develop heartburn if you've never previously had it. However, this can be managed with medicine and lifestyle changes. It's also important to know that sleeve gastrectomy is not reversible. It can make a big impact when it comes to weight loss and associated chronic illnesses.

What Is a Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass?

A Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass is a surgery that can help you lose weight by changing the size of your stomach. The bypass reroutes your digestive system so that the food you eat bypasses your stomach and part of your small intestine. This means that you feel full sooner because your stomach is smaller. It also means that the food you eat does not actually get fully absorbed, meaning that you won't take in as many calories or store as much fat. Also, by changing the routing of the digestive tract, you will feel less hungry.

What Happens During a Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass?

A Roux-en-Y bypass is typically done "laparoscopically," similar to the sleeve gastrectomy. A surgeon will make tiny openings in your abdomen and fill the cavity with air so that they can visualize the area in which they will be working. During a Roux-en-Y bypass, the stomach will be segmented into a small pouch about the size of a golf ball. This area of the stomach will be connected directly to your small intestine, about 3 to 4 feet downstream, through a process called an anastomosis. The rest of the stomach and the first part of your intestine will be left in place.

What Is Life Like After a Roux-en-Y Bypass?

After a gastric bypass, you may have a reduced appetite and feel full sooner. Your body will not absorb as much food, and you will not feel as hungry. If you have had heartburn in the past, it may be improved after the procedure. You will have some restrictions on things you can do—such as taking specific medications or using tobacco products. You may also be at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency or a minor bowel complication. However, a gastric bypass can make a meaningful impact on your weight loss goals and risk of future chronic illnesses.

What Are the Benefits of Bariatric Surgery?

One of the most dramatic benefits of weight loss surgery is that it can help people recover from severe obesity. It is challenging to recover from severe obesity with diet and exercise alone. The majority of people who have bariatric surgery will lose 50 percent of their excess body weight and sustain this weight loss over time. They may have less pain, more energy, a longer expected life span, less chronic disease, and a renewed quality of life. Women who get pregnant after bariatric surgery also have easier pregnancies, with fewer risks.

Considering Bariatric Surgery

Taking measures into your own hands in to reduce your body weight is a significant health decision. At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, our team can support you through this significant journey. Our goal is to make sure you understand the bariatric surgery process, feel prepared, and know what questions to ask.

If you're interested in learning more about bariatric surgery, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Christopher Taglia, MD, FACS, DABOM
Written By Christopher Taglia, MD, FACS, DABOM, Surgeon, Director of Robotic Surgery

Dr. Taglia was born and raised in New York City. His specialties include advanced laparoscopic surgery, weight-loss surgery, endoscopy, anti-reflux surgery, and hernia repair.

Learn more about Dr. Taglia