Gastric Bypass Operation – Understanding the Pros and Cons

Are you considering having a gastric bypass operation? Surgery to produce weight loss is a serious undertaking. If you are considering about undergoing this type of operation you need to understand what it involves. Your life may change after the operation. Knowing what side effects you will be facing after having a gastric bypass operation and being aware of the potential risk for serious complications, dietary restrictions, and occasional failures is a must to aid you into making such a life changing decision. There will most likely be medical follow-ups, and vitamin/mineral supplementation. The actual procedure, typical outcome, drawbacks and costs associated with having a gastric bypass operation are some major factors to consider.

A gastric bypass operation is typically performed in a hospital or a surgery center, using general anesthesia. The surgeon makes multiple half-inch long incisions in the area of the stomach. Long instruments are inserted through these incisions, and the surgeon begins by creating a pouch from the area of the stomach closest to the esophagus. The pouch is detached from the rest of the stomach. Once the pouch is formed, the small intestine remains attached to the portion of the stomach that does not process food. An incision dividing the small intestine into a lower and upper section is made, with the upper section being stapled closed. The lower section of the stomach is then attached to the newly made pouch. The upper part of the small intestine remains in the body, attached to the unused stomach, but it, too, no longer processes food. After the surgeon determines that the staples and sutures do not leak, the instruments are withdrawn and the incisions are closed, typically with absorbable sutures and sterile tape.

Patients who had a gastric bypass operation typically lose at least 60% of their excess weight after surgery. One out of three loses 80%. Most patients reach their lowest weight about two years after surgery. One recent study showed that 90% of patients maintain a loss of half their original body weight ten years after having surgery.

There are of course drawbacks with undergoing a gastric bypass operation. A patient can often times become malnourished due to the body’s decreased ability to absorb nutrients following the procedure and will need to take mineral and vitamin supplements for the rest of their life. Most patients experience what is called “dumping syndrome” a condition characterized by weakness, dizziness, flushing and warmth, nausea, and severe diarrhea and chest pain immediately after eating. A gastric bypass operation is irreversible.

The costs associated with a gastric bypass operation range between $20,000 to $25,000 on average. It is a major concern for candidates of the procedure. Even if you have insurance you might still have to pay for some if not all of the expense. If you have insurance it is likely that your insurance company will request both your physician and your surgeon send in something called a “letter of medical necessity” as part of the weight loss surgery pre-authorization process. Basically, your doctors will relate to the insurance company how having the procedure will improve your health and overall well-being. If you do not have insurance you will need to cover the costs yourself.

A decision to have a gastric bypass operation should never be made without first understanding the pros and cons. Although there are some definite positive weight loss benefits, there are also some health concerns and life changing issues that you must take under consideration.