Is weight-loss surgery safe?

You’ve tried everything. The fad diets. The fad exercises. You’ve even tried the ones that weren’t fads. But nothing has worked. And you’re not just carrying “a few extra pounds.” You’re obese and suffering from a number of other health issues as a result.

But there’s still hope. You’ve heard about bariatric surgery and the success it’s brought to so many people in your predicament.

You’re just asking yourself one question: “Is it safe?”

It’s safe

“It’s very safe,” said Karen Keller, an advanced practice nurse at OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park, Illinois. “While every surgery carries some level of risk, the risk of complications from bariatric surgery is very low, and depending on the procedure, people are usually able to go home the next day.”

Are you a candidate?

>Bariatric Surgery

While bariatric surgery has existed in the United States since the 1950s, today’s modern methods trace their roots to the early 1990s. Performed as laparoscopic surgery with very small incisions in the abdomen, there are five different bariatric procedures endorsed by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

“All of these surgery options can deliver significant weight loss for the patient,” Karen said. “Each procedure delivers results by reducing the size of the stomach and/or bypassing part of the stomach and part of the small intestine. The type of surgery a person ultimately undergoes is a decision they would make in consultation with a physician based on their desired outcomes and the current state of their health.”

Potential risks

While bariatric surgery has proven to be safe and effective, some of the most common complications a patient may encounter include:

  • Reduced capability to absorb nutrients, including vitamins and minerals
  • Acid reflux
  • Ulcers
  • Bowel complications and obstruction
  • Internal leaks where tissue is sewn or stapled together

“While these are all risks, the team of medical professionals caring for the patient takes the necessary steps to mitigate them,” said Karen. “For example, with regard to absorbing nutrients, a dietician will advise the patient on the proper post-operation diet as well as vitamin and mineral supplements to take. And to avoid ulcers, patients are advised to stay away from alcohol and certain medications. So, the risk for complications is very low when taking the necessary steps.”

Additional benefits of surgery

It’s important to understand that the risks a person faces with bariatric surgery are generally far lower than the risks of not having the surgery at all. People suffering from obesity are generally dealing with a number of other serious health issues that can actually be reversed through surgery.

“We see a lot of obese patients that are severely ill with various ailments,” Karen said. “They have lung problems, severe arthritis, diabetes that they can’t control, etc. And a lot of these conditions are eliminated after the surgery. For example, we recently had a patient who lost about 90 pounds following surgery, and he previously had been on multiple medications that he no longer has to take thanks to the surgery.”

While a doctor’s referral may not be necessary for undergoing bariatric surgery, you should talk to your primary care provider if you think it might be the right choice for you.

Last Updated: April 20, 2022

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About Author: Luke Legner

Luke Legner is a writing coordinator at OSF HealthCare. He joined the Ministry in April 2021 after several years working in corporate communications in the heavy equipment industry. A Pontiac native, he graduated from Illinois State University in 2002 where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication.

Luke and his wife, Ashley, reside in Bloomington and have one son and two daughters. When he’s not tackling a home improvement project, you can usually find Luke watching his beloved Chicago Cubs or The Andy Griffith Show.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise