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Types of weight loss surgery: Which is right for you?

If you're considering weight loss surgery, you may wonder which type of bariatric surgery would be best for you. This article discusses the four most common bariatric surgical procedures and how to know if you're a good candidate for them.

September 28, 2023
Before and after weight loss surgery photos of a woman

If you are struggling with obesity after trying diets and exercise programs, please know that you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), nearly one in three adults are overweight, and more than two in five adults have obesity. More than 40% of adults in the U.S. have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, which meets the definition of obesity, and nearly 10% of Americans have severe obesity (BMI of more than 40).

Not all people with obesity have other health problems, but they do have a higher risk of developing heart diseasetype 2 diabetesarthritis and some types of cancer. If you are experiencing obesity, losing significant weight may lower your risk of those diseases or lessen their severity. If you already have type 2 diabetes, losing weight can reduce your need for medications and even reverse the condition.

A woman working out outdoors

If you are interested in taking the next steps toward weight loss surgery, schedule an appointment with one of our physicians or sign up for an informational seminar.

Who is a good candidate for weight loss surgery?

It is difficult for some people with obesity to achieve significant weight loss with diet and exercise alone. Weight loss (bariatric) surgery may be a good choice in these circumstances, especially if you have other health conditions that are made worse by obesity.

According to the NIDDK, weight loss surgery may be an option for adults who have:

  • Severe obesity (BMI more than 40)
  • A BMI of 35 or more and health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol or sleep apnea
  • BMI of 30 or more with type 2 diabetes that doesn't respond to medication or lifestyle changes

People who get weight loss surgery can lose 30% to 75% of their excess body weight, depending on the surgical method and how well they are able to follow diet and exercise recommendations before and after surgery.

In recent years, weight loss surgery has become safer, and studies show that it can improve health and well-being for many people. However, it is not for everyone, and many factors go into deciding whether to try it and which type of weight loss surgery to try. People who undergo weight loss surgery still need to stay active and watch what they eat and drink — in fact, they may have to be more careful than ever.

Find out if you are a candidate for weight loss surgery by taking our free, confidential weight loss surgery health risk assessment. Your results will be emailed to you, and there is no further obligation.

Types of weight loss surgery

There are several types of weight loss surgery, and each has different risks and benefits to consider.

Gastric band

During a gastric band procedure, a surgeon uses an adjustable gastric band to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach but makes no changes to the intestines. The band is adjustable and can be removed, if necessary.

Out of the four most common types of bariatric procedures, this one is the simplest and has the lowest risk of nutrient deficiencies, but it also has a lower success rate. Bariatric surgeons often recommend the gastric band procedure to patients with a BMI between 30-35.

Gastric bypass surgery

In gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon creates a small pouch with the top of the stomach and attaches it to the small intestine. The new smaller stomach helps you feel full faster, and since food passes through only part of the digestive system, the body absorbs fewer calories and nutrients. The surgery also results in changes in appetite and how the body breaks down food.

This surgery is usually done through a small incision with a laparoscope, which is a long, thin instrument. The procedure is more complex than some others, and patients have a higher risk of complications and nutrient deficiencies afterward. However, it has a high rate of successful weight loss. On average, people lose about two-thirds to three-quarters of their excess weight. For these reasons, bariatric surgeons often recommend gastric bypasses to patients with BMIs over 40. A gastric bypass could be recommended if a patient has a BMI over 35 and has significant health issues.

Sleeve gastrectomy

In a sleeve gastrectomy, the surgeon removes 80% of the stomach, specifically the part of the stomach that produces the hormones that make you feel hungry. After surgery, people feel less hungry and feel full faster. It is a simpler procedure than gastric bypass, with fewer complications and a faster recovery time. However, some people may experience reflux or heartburn. Weight loss tends to be a bit lower than it would be with gastric bypass surgery. For these reasons, a sleeve gastrectomy is commonly recommended to patients who have BMIs between 35 to 50. This procedure is usually recommended to patients who have severe diabetes or gastric-esophageal reflux because this surgery can worsen it.

Duodenal switch

Another type of weight loss surgery is the duodenal switch. This surgery actually involves two procedures: one similar to the sleeve gastrectomy procedure and a second that divides the small intestine into two passages.

The duodenal switch is associated with the greatest weight loss, but also the greatest number of complications. That’s why this procedure is commonly recommended to patients who have a BMI over 50.

Other considerations for weight loss surgery

In addition to looking at your health profile and the potential risks and benefits of the surgical procedure, there are a few other important aspects of this decision to consider. Health insurance companies have different guidelines about which types of weight loss surgery they'll cover and under what circumstances. Some policies may require patients to try a weight management program and see a behavioral health provider before approving weight loss surgery.

Choosing weight loss surgery is not an easy answer or a magic bullet. It involves making a commitment to lifelong changes in eating and physical activity patterns. If you feel weight loss surgery is the right choice for you and you are ready to commit to this option, ask a doctor about your weight loss surgery options.

If you are interested in weight loss surgery, find out more about HCA Virginia Health System’s bariatric surgical services and find a location near you.

Main image description: Sarah Martinez met her goal of losing 190 lbs., following her sleeve gastrectomy performed by Dr. Tejwant S. Datta at Commonwealth Surgical Associates, part of Chippenham Hospital and HCA Virginia Health System in Richmond, Virginia. Read more about Sarah’s weight loss journey.

September 28, 2023

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