Understanding the risks of bariatric surgery: Read this before you commit!


Most surgeries, major or minor, have some risks and side-effects associated with them. The decisive factor remains whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Similarly, the decision to go for a Bariatric surgery depends on the benefits patients can get out of it and the side-effects that might linger on for quite a while. Bariatric surgeries have gained popularity for some time now, and the reason might not be surprising. With obesity prevalence at its highest, there has been a considerable increase in weight loss surgery procedures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of American adults are affected by obesity.

Obesity: The real issue behind most issues

Obesity is looming large, and the condition is a root of potentially life-threatening diseases. This condition is one of the leading causes of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and research has indicated a link between obesity and some cancers. A report by Medical News Today suggests a definitive link between pancreatic cancer and obesity. Obesity can damage the quality of life, leaving the affected immobile and most often triggers depression.

With so much at stake, people have started considering bariatric surgeries as one of the most effective, and common interventions. The statistics published by ASMBS (American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery), indicate that the number of people opting for surgical methods of weight-loss in terms of numbers is massive. In 2011, the number of people undergoing Bariatric surgery was 158,000, which has now risen to 256,000. The number was just 13000 in 1998. The data pertains to the United States only, and the gist is clear. More and more people are opting for Bariatric surgeries, but are they worth it?

Bariatric surgery: What to expect?

Bariatric surgery is a series of weight loss procedures proposed for obese individuals to reduce the food intake, which, in turn, leads to weight loss. Any person with their BMI over 30 is considered obese. If the BMI crosses 40, the person gets categorized as severely obese. There are three bariatric surgery procedures, which have gained prominence- gastric bypass, sleeve gastronomy, and gastric binding. The surgeries are performed under anaesthesia. While most of the surgeries are laparoscopic, some individuals need conventional surgeries too. These procedures last for hours. People considering bariatric surgery are offered pre-op and post-op guidance from doctors. The results after the surgery can be a mix. You will be looking at an outcome that can be good, bad, or downright embarrassing. There are a few things that the doctor might skip mentioning.

Post-surgery depression

There is a definite link between obesity and depression. A majority of patients who opt for bariatric surgery might experience overall improvement after the surgery, but the feelings of depression might worsen for some. A study published by researchers from Yale University indicated that 13 percent of the studied patients reported an increase in the Beck Depression Inventory. BDI or the Beck Depression Inventory is a numeric rating that measures social functioning, eating disorder behavior, and self-esteem. The study was carried out within 6-12 months after the gastric bypass surgery. 6-12 months’ time frame is considered crucial to assess patients for depression and the associated symptoms.

Possibility of excess skin and a corrective surgery

In some cases, post-surgery weight loss is gradual, and the skin slowly adjusts to the change. But there are cases where people are left with such excess skin that they might need cosmetic surgery to fix it. Your insurance company will not be footing the bill to get rid of the droopy skin unless it is a medical emergency. According to the American Society of Plastic surgeons, more than 40,000 body contouring operations were performed in 2013 for patients who lost a substantial amount of weight. The numbers have gone up since then, and the bad news is that the operations can cost a lot.

Addiction Transfer

Patients who undergo bariatric surgery have been examined for the risk of increased alcohol use, and the results are not very promising. A study published by JAMA explains the study carried out on gastric bypass surgery patients. The patients were studied at 1, 3, 6, and 24 months after the surgery. The results suggested that the use of alcohol and other addictive substances was higher. One of the reasons explaining the behaviors is that the patients display higher peak alcohol levels, and they reach the levels quickly after the surgery. Alcohol is easily digested and leads to impulsivity and disinhibition. The changes in absorption take place as alcohol dehydrogenase happens primarily in the stomach and after the bariatric surgery, when the stomach is significantly reduced, the enzyme is reduced too. So patients might absorb alcohol more quickly and have an acute and longer response to the alcohol-effects, which leads to other negative behaviors. Additionally, the patients who undergo bariatric surgery are prescribed some opioids to manage post-operative pain. New researches have suggested that bariatric patients are prone to develop chronic opioid use. This addiction is common in patients with postoperative complications, or patients who experience less weight-loss.

Continuous management

With severe obese patients, surgery often means a quick remedy. Patients have to follow a rigorous schedule of low-calorie diets supported by regular physical activity to get the most of it. In other terms, for a long-term benefit, it becomes mandatory to become a part of a comprehensive lifestyle program. If the patients do not lack the will to undertake lifestyle programs, then weight-loss would have been possible in the first place, without the surgery. To make matters worse a study suggested that more than 60% of patients who had developed a binge eating disorder before surgery are likely to develop graze eating after the surgery. Graze eating means eating smaller portions of food continuously throughout the day. Graze eating becomes problematic as the post-operative stomach cannot preclude it, and hence the process contributes to weight regain.

Other immediate post-surgery risks

Each surgical process comes with its list of risks. With gastric bypass surgery or gastric sleeve surgeries, patients are at risk of complications like the dumping syndrome, gallstones, hernia, leakage, profuse internal bleedings, perforation of intestines or stomach, distension of the stomach, anastomotic obstruction, calorie malnutrition, pulmonary problems, stricture, ulceration, and the lists goes on.

The safest way out!
Though Bariatric surgery can help patients lose weight, when weighing the process on the pros and cons scale, the cons seem never-ending. Losing weight is anyways a challenging process, but with safer options out there, it might not be wise to risk it all. At Be Better Bariatrics, patients can go for weight-loss options that involve no scars, less risk, and a much shorter recovery time. The techniques are minimally invasive, repeatable, and will cost you far less than the surgery.

Related Posts