Surgery has historically remained the greatest tool of medical science that has saved lives for eons, even though it carries some risk of complications. This foundational principle also applies to bariatric surgery. According to the CDC, obesity is a leading cause of numerous chronic as well as life-threatening diseases. The golden news is that obesity can be treated with bariatric surgery.
When you consider the pros and cons of weight loss surgery, its benefits in terms of your health, longevity and quality of life will far outweigh the risk of temporary side effects and complications. For this reason, the medical community worldwide now encourages patients to consider the pros and cons of bariatric surgery and choose this procedure to eliminate obesity.
Is weight loss surgery safe?
It is important to know what are the pros and cons of bariatric surgery and whether it is safe for you. In general, the two primary forms of weight loss surgery – gastric sleeve and gastric bypass – are both considered highly safe. But two vital pre-requisites to a safe procedure are that you should be an eligible candidate and the bariatric surgeon you work with should be qualified to perform the type of surgery you are choosing.
Lower Risk with Laparoscopic Surgery
Bariatric surgery risks over the years have dramatically reduced with the introduction of laparoscopic technique. When you are considering the pros and cons of weight loss surgery, you should look at whether your surgeon will perform the procedure laparoscopically. This technique is less invasive compared to open surgery, requiring very small incisions. As the surgeon is able to view the underlying structures on a monitor outside, they can perform the procedure with higher precision, causing less tissue trauma.
Gastric Sleeve has a Higher Safety Profile
You should evaluate different types of bariatric surgery pros and cons because the safety profile in each case differs. In comparison to gastric bypass and duodenal switch procedures, gastric sleeve surgery is considered much safer with minimal risk of complications. Gastric sleeve does not involve any changes to the small intestine, and it will only require partial stomach tissue removal. Therefore, the healing is faster and the risk of complications during and after the surgery is substantially lower.
Pros and Cons of weight loss surgery – An overview
Weight loss surgery risks and benefits must be objectively considered for each patient individually in order to determine whether they are a good candidate for it. If your bariatric surgeon finds that you do not suffer from any such medical conditions that will increase your risk of surgery, they may recommend a weight loss procedure for you.
Surgery vs. Lifestyle Interventions
If you are body mass index (BMI) is below 35 and you do not have any obesity-related medical conditions, you may benefit more from lifestyle interventions such as diet control and a fitness regimen to reduce weight. But if your BMI is above 35 with co-morbidities or above 40 without co-morbidities, a bariatric surgery may work ideally to reduce your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions. You need to critically evaluate the pros and cons of weight loss surgery in your individual context.
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Age, Health, and Personal Goals
The pros and cons of bariatric surgery must also be considered in the context of your age, medical history, and your personal goals. In younger patients, the bariatric surgery risks are lower because their body is more resilient and will recover faster. The medical record of past surgeries and pre-existing ailments will also impact your risk profile. Finally, your surgeon will assess the pros and cons in the backdrop of your personal goals and commitment to follow the post-op diet restrictions for a lifetime.
Benefits of bariatric surgery
An objective analysis of the pros and cons of weight loss surgery will focus equally on the benefits and downsides. The benefits of this surgery are primarily related to your physical health, but you will also achieve indirect benefits in terms of your mental health, self-confidence, and experience an overall improvement in your quality of life.
- Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance syndrome are commonly seen among patients with obesity. Weight loss, fatty tissue loss, and increased physical activity following the surgery may lead to diabetes remission.
- Heart Disease: Obesity is a key risk factor for heart disease and OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). Weight loss, improvement in vascular health, and reduction of neck fat will help reduce the symptoms of heart disease and OSA.
- Kidney Disease: Patients with obesity-related diabetes and high blood pressure may sometimes suffer from renal failure. This is one of the major indirect bariatric surgery risks, which can be diminished with elimination of obesity.
- Fatty Liver: NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is frequently found in patients suffering from obesity. Among the pros and cons of bariatric surgery, this is an important ‘pro’ for people who are struggling with poor liver function.
- Osteoarthritis: This is a severely limiting condition that may be caused or worsened by obesity. Functional and muscoskeletal challenges due to knee, hip and back degeneration can be reversed or controlled with weight loss surgery.
- Feminine Health: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility, menstrual disorders, and female urinary incontinence are some of the conditions women with obesity have to face. Bariatric surgery can resolve these symptoms.
- Mental Health: People with obesity often suffer from psychosocial, behavioral and mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, binge eating, and substance abuse, among others. Weight loss surgery promotes their resolution.
- Longevity: Perhaps the most important benefit to consider when looking at bariatric weight loss surgery pros and cons is its impact on longevity. With resolution of obesity, increased physical activity, healthy diet, and lower co-morbidities, you can expect to live longer.
- Economic Impact: Patients with obesity and related diseases often suffer from limitations at the workplace, having higher absenteeism, and may be unable to earn to their full potential. Bariatric surgery may indirectly benefit your economic position.
CHECK THIS OUT: Benefits of gastric sleeve surgery
Bariatric surgery risks
Potential risks and limitations should be carefully considered while you are evaluating the different types of bariatric surgery pros and cons. As long as you choose a skilled and experienced surgeon, your physiological weight loss surgery risks will be minimal. However, even then you must be prepared for various potential downsides.
- Medical Complications: Bariatric surgery is a major procedure, which could potentially cause complications during or after the surgery. Complications may be both short-term and long-term, and may require medical or surgical intervention. You can minimize these bariatric surgery risks when you conscientiously follow your surgeon’s pre- and post-op care guidelines.
- Weight Loss Failure: While bariatric surgery has a high success rate, a few patients may still experience weight loss failure or weight regain at some stage after the procedure. As long as your surgeon has performed the procedure correctly, you can reverse weight loss failure by strictly adhering to your post-op diet plan. In rare cases, you may require a revision surgery.
- Loose Skin Tissue: A massive weight loss following your bariatric surgery may sometimes result in excess loose and hanging skin in certain areas of the body. This risk is higher if your skin is less elastic or you undergo the surgery at a later age. If you are bothered by the appearance of loose skin, you may undergo a body lift or skin removal surgery at a later stage.
- Strained Marriage: While it seems counter-intuitive that a life transforming weight loss surgery can cause marital conflict, it is always possible that you or your spouse may find it hard to cope with the new situation. A therapist can provide you professional counseling, or you may seek help from family or join support groups to limit the emotional impact on your marriage.
- Mental Health Issues: Although most people will have a stronger mental and emotional health following bariatric surgery, a few people may have an opposite effect, particularly if they encounter weight loss failure. Alcohol or drug abuse, mood swings and depressive disorders, and suicidal thoughts may occur in rare cases. It’s best to see a mental health professional in this situation.
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Pros and cons of gastric sleeve
Gastric sleeve currently ranks as the number one weight loss surgery procedure all over the world. While the procedure has an excellent success rate and minimal risk of complications, it’s prudent to examine all the pros and cons of gastric sleeve before you make a final decision.
Pros of Gastric Sleeve
- Relatively less invasive and less risky surgery
- No surgical changes to the small intestine
- Small incisions and minimal visible scarring
- Faster post-op recovery and low rate of complications
- Average weight loss up to 70% in first year
- Improved cardiovascular and liver health
- Elimination of obstructive sleep apnea
- Boosted self-esteem and better quality of life
CHECK THIS: Gastric sleeve before and after photos
Cons of Gastric Sleeve
- No change to the calorie absorption levels in the body
- Risk of re-stretching of the new stomach pouch
- Stomach reduction is irreversible
- May not successfully resolve type 2 diabetes symptoms
- Bleeding, clotting and infection risks
- Dumping syndrome is a common complication
- Weight loss failure, regain or plateau may occur
- Stomach perforation, hernia, ulcer, and bowel obstruction risks
Pros and cons of gastric bypass
Gastric bypass is considered the gold standards among all types of weight loss surgery procedures. Thousands of patients benefit every year from this procedure, but in order to make an informed decision, you should dispassionately look at the pros and cons of gastric bypass surgery.
Pros of Gastric Bypass
- Oldest bariatric surgery with extensive medical research
- Induces rapid weight loss in the first three months
- You can lose up to 80% of your excess weight in one year
- Calorie absorption is reduced for maximum weight loss impact
- Ideally suited for patients with obesity-related type 2 diabetes
- Induces reduced craving for fatty, fried and high sugar foods
- Alleviates the symptoms of heart disease, fatty liver, and OSA
- Improves mental and emotional health for many patients
CHECK THIS: Gastric bypass before and after pictures
Cons of Gastric Bypass
- More invasive surgery compared to gastric sleeve
- Surgical rerouting of the small intestine is involved
- Risk of nutritional deficiency will remain lifelong
- Effects of the surgery are irreversible
- Recovery is relatively longer than a gastric sleeve
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar may occur in some patients
- Risk of gallstones, gastrointestinal leakage, ulcerations
- Weight loss failure or weight regain may occur in some cases
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Mini gastric bypass surgery pros and cons
Depending on your health and BMI parameters and your personal goals, your bariatric surgeon may sometimes recommend a mini gastric bypass. Although this procedure is less invasive, you should objectively review the mini gastric bypass pros and cons in order to make a judicious choice.
Pros of Mini Gastric Bypass
- Less invasive compared to a full gastric bypass
- Faster post-op healing and reduced scarring
- Lower rate of surgical complications
- Nutritional deficiency risks are reduced
Cons of Mini Gastric Bypass
- Patients with a higher BMI are not good candidates
- Co-morbidities such as diabetes may not be fully resolved
- Risk of weight loss failure or weight regain is higher
- Post-surgical complications may still occur
CHECK THIS OUT: Mini gastric bypass vs gastric bypass
Gastric banding surgery pros and cons
Adjustable gastric band or lap band surgery is now rarely performed because of its various limitations compared to other procedures. However, if you are considering this surgery, you should be aware of the gastric banding surgery pros and cons before you make a final decision.
Pros of Gastric Band Surgery
- Least invasive among all major bariatric surgeries
- Effects of the surgery are reversible
- Adjustments to the lap band can made later to suit your needs
- Risk of complications, downtime and discomfort are lower
Cons of Gastric Band Surgery
- Not suitable for patients with a higher BMI
- Slow rate of weight loss and may not fully eliminate obesity
- Lap band leakage, slipping, erosion and other complications
- Risk of weight loss failure is the highest among all major surgeries
RELATED: Lap band complications
Final words on pros and cons of bariatric surgery
Pros and cons of weight loss surgery will vary for each individual, and must be seen in the context of your unique risk factors. A dedicated bariatric surgeon can explain you what this procedure can or cannot do for you, and whether it will meet your personal needs and goals.
You need to obtain a clinically accurate answer to the all-important question of whether the pros and cons of weight loss surgery work in your favor. If the pros significantly outweigh the cons, it becomes easier to make a decision to go ahead with this life-altering procedure.