A typical American dieter will attempt weight loss four times per year. Despite these attempts, over two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. If you’ve been struggling unsuccessfully to reach a healthy weight for years, it may be time to consider your weight loss surgery options. Weight loss doctors can help you discuss your medical weight loss solutions, but it can be hard to choose which of the weight loss surgery options is right for you.
To help, we’ll compare two of the most popular weight loss surgery options available: Gastric bypass surgery and gastric sleeve surgery. Both of these types of weight loss surgery are permanent, and aim to reduce hunger by creating a smaller stomach. Beyond that, each offers different approaches and outcomes.
Gastric bypass surgery
Gastric bypass has been used for over 50 years. It’s the oldest and most common of the weight loss surgery options. During surgery, the doctor will divide your stomach into two portions and seal the upper portion off from the lower. He or she will then connect the upper portion to the lower section of your small intestine. The purpose of this is to enable food to bypass a portion of the stomach and small intestine, thus creating a shorter path for the food to take. This inhibits your body’s ability to absorb calories from the food you eat and also causes you to feel fuller faster.
- Weight loss results: Most patients lose one-third to two-thirds of excess weight in the first one to two years following gastric bypass surgery. Around 50% of that weight loss is typically seen in the first six months following surgery. This results in roughly a one to two pound weight loss per week. This rate of weight loss is less likely to result in gallstones than faster weight loss would.
- Recovery time: The gastric bypass recovery time is typically three to five weeks. The first two to three days following surgery will be spent in the hospital, and your activities will be limited for three to five weeks.
- Side effects: Gastric bypass surgery may cause “dumping syndrome,” whereby food is dumped into the intestines from the stomach too quickly, preventing proper digestion. This occurs in roughly 85% of patients. Similarly, you won’t be able to absorb food the same way you could before surgery. This may result in malnutrition. To compensate, your doctor will likely advise that you take supplements.
- Gastric bypass qualifications: The National Institutes of Health set a minimum gastric bypass requirements of a BMI of 40 (considered morbidly obese) or a BMI of 35 with other obesity-related health conditions (e.g. diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, or high blood pressure) to qualify for gastric bypass surgery.
Gastric sleeve surgery
In gastric sleeve surgery, a portion (usually over half) of your stomach is removed. What remains is then formed into a tube-shaped, smaller stomach that is approximately the size of a banana. Surgical staples are used to keep your new stomach closed. The result is you will feel full faster and be able to eat less. Gastric sleeve surgery doesn’t inhibit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients the way gastric bypass surgery does.
Surgery can be either laparoscopic (meaning the surgeon will make several small cuts and use a camera to guide surgery) or performed as an open procedure with a single, larger incision. Laparoscopic is the most common choice. The type of surgery you have will affect your recovery time but not your weight loss results.
- Weight loss results: Research shows that you’ll likely loose over 50% of your excess weight.
- Recovery time: You’re likely to experience some pain in your belly following surgery and may want to use pain medication for the first week. With open surgery, you’ll need to restrict physical activity for four to six weeks. A laparoscopic surgery would reduce this recovery time.
- Side effects: Like gastric bypass, gastric sleeve surgery can result in “dumping syndrome.”
- Gastric sleeve qualifications: To qualify for gastric sleeve surgery, you must have a BMI of 40 (at least 100 pounds overweight), or have a BMI of 35 with other obesity-related health conditions (e.g. diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, or high blood pressure).