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Weight loss surgery - an alimentary guide

What happens inside when surgical techniques are used to help you lose weight?

What happens inside when surgical techniques are used to help you lose weight?

For some people with obesity, the usual measures of diet and exercise just aren't effective when it comes to reducing and controlling their weight.

This can have serious repercussions because obesity is not just a condition in itself. It also brings with it risks such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, arthritis, cancer of the ovary and colon, sleep apnoea and gallstones. Some may even shorten your life.

Obesity is caused by a wide range of factors including genetics, metabolic disorders, physical and psychological issues, lifestyle and poor nutrition. Where other measures fail, bariatric (weight loss) surgery may be appropriate for people with significant obesity: they will have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 35. (A normal BMI is between 18.5 to 25 kg/m2).

Many people have described the effects of weight loss surgery as like 'getting my life back'. As well as participating in daily life more easily, the health benefits can be equally significant. Surgery reduces diabetes in 85% of patients, hypertension in 75%, sleep apnoea in 90% and infertility in 50%. In turn it can also help to restore your life expectancy.

Weight loss surgery options

Weight loss surgery is one of the many fields in which BMI Healthcare offers leading consultants and the very latest devices and techniques. This includes a range of high-quality, long-term weight loss treatment solutions. We describe some of these below.

The gastric band

Safely and effectively, the gastric band adjustable gastric banding system reduces the amount of food your stomach can hold at one time. An inflatable band is placed around the top portion of your stomach, creating a small pouch that limits or reduces food consumption. The system is adjustable, which means that the inflatable band can be tightened or loosened to help the patient 'feel fuller' while maintaining a healthy diet.

The gastric balloon

A similar objective - making you feel fuller - is met with a different technique, a stomach balloon. More accurately, it's a soft, saline-filled silicone balloon that is placed inside the stomach for a period of six months. The balloon is designed to partially fill your stomach, giving you a feeling of fullness. It not only makes you feel less hungry, but you feel fuller more quickly after smaller meals. This should make it easier to make the changes to your diet and lifestyle that will help you keep the weight off once the balloon is removed. The balloon is placed (and later removed) during a simple 20-30 minute 'endoscopic' procedure, for which you'll receive a mild sedative. This procedure is also available for patients with a lower BMI of 27 or more.

Gastric bypass

With a gastric bypass, your stomach is stapled and your food is re-routed on a different path. The procedure helps to reduce portion sizes, dampen your appetite and limit the calories you absorb. It also causes 'dumping' (dizziness, headache, sweating and diarrhoea) if you stray onto sweet foods. The procedure takes 60-90 minutes and achieves weight loss with lasting results. The bypass is more effective for people who snack and pick, as well as diabetics and people with a BMI of more than 50.

As a result of the bypass, you will need to take mineral and vitamin supplements for the rest of your life.

Achieving a healthy weight loss transformation through weight loss surgery

Weight loss surgery is not recommended for everyone. In addition to being physically suitable, you and your consultant need to sit down for a detailed fact-finding session. This is so that he or she can gain a complete profile of your case, and you can ask as many questions as you need to make an informed decision. The first step is to visit one of our obesity hospitals for an initial assessment. During the assessment a clinical specialist will:

  • Take your previous medical history.
  • Discuss your health and eating habits.
  • Measure your Body Mass Index (BMI).
  • Establish whether you meet the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for weight loss surgery.
  • Answer all your questions about the different options, and address any concerns.

If you are suitable and wish to proceed, we will give you an information sheet to take to your GP (unless he or she has already referred you). This sets out the results of your assessment and describes the BMI weight loss surgery service. You will need to get your GP to confirm that they are happy for you to proceed before you can see the consultant.

Your weight loss journey after surgery 

The operation is only part of the process. BMI Healthcare offers a complete before, during and after package of care. This includes an experienced and understanding team to support you, and help you stay healthy while achieving the best weight loss results for you. It also includes ongoing consultations with your bariatric surgeon, continuing personal support from your dietician and the shared experiences of patient support groups. If you would like to know more about weight loss surgery and whether you might be suitable, first have a chat with your GP.