Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery is a process in which the stomach is made smaller in order to reduce the individual’s caloric intake and promote major weight loss.

In 2004, 140 000 people underwent gastric bypass surgery, a number that is on the rise.

But is gastric bypass surgery for everyone? What does this procedure entail and what are the risks associated with it?

What’s Involved?

Gastric bypass surgery enables food to bypass a section of the small intestine; as a result, the individual feels full more quickly, meaning that she will eat less and consume fewer calories. Because fewer calories are also absorbed, she will also likely experience a drop in her weight.

The most common type of surgery is Roux-en-Y, a process in which surgical staples or a plastic band is used to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach. This pouch is then linked to the small intestine, allowing food to bypass the rest of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine.

Another type of gastric bypass surgery is what is called an open procedure. In this case, the surgery is conducted via a large incision in the abdomen.

Laparoscopic surgery is a gastric bypass procedure in which a small incision is made using tiny instruments and a camera in order to seal part of the stomach.

Criteria for Gastric Bypass Surgery

There is a very selective screening process for individuals interested in this process. A panel of experts, made up of a physician, dietician, psychologist and surgeon, evaluate the candidate’s particular medical history, including whether the benefits of the surgery will outweigh the risks in the candidate’s particular situation.

Here are some common features of individuals who have this procedure:


  • Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher. To calculate your BMI, click
  • obese for a minimum of five years
  • no history of alcohol abuse
  • untreated depression or any other mental health disorder
  • between 18 and 65 years of age


Does It Work?

A study found that participants lost one-third of their excess weight in one to four years; however, some of the weight was regained.

Most patients lose weight and continue to do so for up to 12 months.

Another finding suggests that in one to two years, an individual can lose 50 to 60 percent of her excess weight.

Side Effects and Risks

A four to six day hospital stay is required after having gastric bypass surgery; a two to three day stay is required for those who have a laparoscopic surgical procedure.

A patient can generally return to her normal activities after three to five weeks.

Gastric bypass surgery can lead to dumping syndrome, a condition in which food moves too rapidly through the stomach and intestines, leading to nausea, weakness, faintness and diarrhea. These symptoms are aggravated by the consumption of refined foods.

Other side effects include hair loss and thinning, mood changes and experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fatigue and body aches.

Roux-en-Y can leads to an iron and vitamin B12 deficiency in 30% of gastric bypass surgeries. It can also result in a hernia; the stomach can also expand, resulting in hiccupping and bloating.

More serious risks can also occur. Incisions can become infected; 1.5% of individuals die after having surgery.

One study found that 1 in 50 people died within 30 days of having gastric bypass surgery; a number which can increase by five times if the surgeon is inexperienced.

Pregnancy after Gastric Bypass Surgery

Many morbidly obese women are infertile.

Studies have found that having a gastric bypass surgery decreases an obese woman’s risk of post-surgical pregnancy complications.

For example, maternal blood pressure is lowered on average by ten times, while there is a lowered risk of diabetes, hypertension and giving birth by C-section. The infant’s chance of being born with spina bifida is also reduced.

However, because gastric bypass surgery can lead to iron and Vitamin B12 deficiencies, a woman trying to conceive should make sure she talks to her doctor about vitamin supplements in order to ward off anemia.

Alternate Treatments

Alternate surgical procedures include adjustable gastric banding, in which an inflatable band divides the stomach into two pouches using a laparoscope.

Vertical banded gastroplasty divides the stomach into two sections, limiting space so that the individual will eat less. This process is conducted using a surgical stapler but it isn’t common because it lacks long-term results.

Another alternative to gastric bypass surgery is biliopancreatic division, in which a section of the stomach is removed; however there is a high risk of malnutrition associated with this process.

It’s essential to understand that gastric bypass surgery is not a solution in and of itself, but rather the beginning of a process; the patient must commit to lifelong changes in eating and exercise for the surgery to be a true, long-term success.

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