Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass Surgery

By:    Published: September 6, 2012

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With obesity becoming a growing health problem for thousands of people, there have been more and more advances in medicine as far as how this disease can be treated. For those who have had trouble with other weight loss methods, laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery may be an option that can finally help them to lead a healthier life.

Purpose

The purpose of gastric bypass surgery is to lose weight. This is accomplished by changing the size of the stomach and altering the way in which the body deals with food that has been consumed. By making these changes during the surgical procedure, gastric bypass surgery limits how much a person is able to eat and reduces the absorption of nutrients in the body.

Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a form of this weight loss procedure that is considered to be the least invasive. Another benefit of this surgery is that it is a very common type of weight loss surgery and is widely considered to be safer since it tends to have fewer complications than other surgeries of its kind.

Regardless of the fact that it is less dangerous than other weight loss surgeries, laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery may still have serious side effects or risks. Additionally, it is not for everyone. The ideal candidates are those who are very overweight or obese; according to MayoClinic.com, a person must have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40 or a BMI of at least 35 combined with a serious weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. (1) Before someone can be considered for the surgery, they must try to lose weight with diet and exercise. Candidates will also need to agree to make permanent changes to their lifestyle in order to make the surgery successful and effective.

The Procedure

Patients are given a general anesthesia that will make them unconscious during the surgery. During the procedure, small instruments and special techniques are used to make the surgery as minimally invasive as possible. To begin, four to six small openings are made in the abdomen. Lights, cameras and surgical instruments will be passed through these tubes to complete the surgery. This is where the name of the surgery comes from; the tiny cameras used to complete the surgery are called laparoscopes.

Then, the abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide to allow more space for the surgeon to work and see your stomach and intestines. Then, a large portion of the stomach is bypassed, leaving only a very small portion to function for food digestion. This is accomplished by stapling the stomach so that the top portion remains functional.

Next, the surgeon connects a part of the small intestine to a hole in the functional part of the stomach. This creates an altered digestive system where food will travel from the small, functional part of the stomach to the small intestine, allowing the body to eat less and absorb fewer calories. Once the small intestine has been connected, the small openings in the abdomen are closed and the procedure is complete. The entire surgery takes about 2 to 4 hours.

Recovery

One of the biggest benefits of laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is that it leads to a shorter and less painful recovery than regular gastric bypass surgery. It also leaves very small scars and lowers the risk of infection.

After the surgery is complete, most patients will need to stay in the hospital for 1 to 3 days. Most people need to take time off of work for a few weeks to fully recover. That means that at home, they will need plenty of rest and may need to replace bandages regularly.  Another important part of recovery is following strict eating guidelines. This is important since the stomach has been dramatically changed during the surgery.

Results

According to The Cleveland Clinic, the most significant amount of weight loss occurs in the first year after the surgery has been completed. (2) In addition to helping the patient lose weight, laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery also helps to prevent potentially fatal health conditions that are often associated with being overweight or obese. Those who have had successful laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery will have a reduced risk of developing the following health conditions:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Severe sleep apnea

Many people who have this surgery lose a dramatic amount of weight. In fact, many people decide to have plastic surgery later on to remove excess skin that remains from when they were heavier. However, results are often dependent upon how successful the patient is in changing their lifestyle permanently. That means that eating limited amounts of healthy food and exercising regularly have to become part of your routine after having laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery.

Finally, it’s important to note the potential side effects of having this surgery. Not all results are perfect; some people experience ulcers, hernias, gallstones, and diarrhea or bowel obstructions after having the surgery. These are considered long-term complications that may appear months or years after having the surgery. Additionally, there are immediate risks of having this type of major surgery, such as bleeding, infection, breathing problems or blood clots. Be sure to discuss all the possible risks and side effects with your surgeon before deciding to go through with the procedure.

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