What is weight loss (bariatric) surgery?

Weight Loss (Bariatric) Surgery
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Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery helps people who are very overweight lose weight. It is done only after diet and exercise has not resulted in long-term weight loss. The surgery makes the stomach area smaller, so it fills up with less food. Sometimes surgery also changes digestion, so less food is absorbed.

After surgery, the person will not be able to eat very much at one time and will get full quickly. Stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea may occur if the person eats too much at one time or if the person eats foods that are high in fat or sugar. Getting good nutrition is important, because less food can be eaten and in some cases less nutrition is absorbed from that food.

Who will be on your care team for weight-loss (bariatric) surgery?

You'll work with a team that's trained to help you lose weight and make healthy changes in your life. They will help you prepare for surgery and for life after surgery. Your team may include a medical doctor or nurse, a surgeon, a registered dietitian, and a therapist or counselor.

How well does weight-loss (bariatric) surgery work?

Depending on the type of surgery, most people lose at least a third of their extra weight after surgery. Some people lose almost all of their extra weight. It also depends on how closely people follow their doctor's advice for lifestyle changes, checkups, and counseling.

Having a healthy pregnancy after weight-loss (bariatric) surgery

Making healthy choices can help you have a healthy pregnancy after weight-loss surgery. Here are two of the most important things you can do.

  • Eat well.

    Talk with your doctor or a dietitian about what to eat and when and how much you can eat after surgery. Keeping a food diary may help you keep track of the types and amounts of food you eat.

  • Be active.

    Swimming and walking are good choices. If you weren't very active before you were pregnant, talk to your doctor about how you can slowly get more active.

Some people may have a hard time with the idea of gaining weight for pregnancy after losing all that weight. Talk to your doctor if this bothers you.

How can you plan ahead for weight-loss (bariatric) surgery?

Having weight-loss surgery is a big step. You can prepare for surgery by having a plan. Your plan may include your goals for losing weight and how to make changes in your diet, activity, and lifestyle to help raise your chances of success.

One way to prepare for surgery is to think about your goal or reason why you want to reach a healthy weight. Do you want to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar? Do you want to be able to sleep better, play with your kids, or walk around the block? Having a reason can help you stay with your plan and meet your goals.

You'll have a weight loss team that you can talk to about your plans and goals. The team will help you get ready for surgery. After surgery, the team will help you adjust to new ways of eating and changes to your body.

What are the risks of weight-loss (bariatric) surgery?

Any weight-loss surgery has risks. These include gaining back the lost weight, infection of the incision site, and a blood clot blocking blood flow to the lung (pulmonary embolism). Other risks include slipping of the gastric band, leaking from the stomach, and narrowing of the connection between the stomach and the small intestine.

What is weight-loss (bariatric) surgery?

Weight loss surgery helps people lose weight. The doctor makes the stomach smaller so it holds less food. Or the doctor may change the path of the intestine to reduce the amount of food it can absorb.

What can you expect as you recover from weight-loss (bariatric) surgery?

You may stay in the hospital for one or more days after the surgery. How long you stay depends on the type of surgery you had.

Most people need 2 to 4 weeks before they are ready to get back to their usual routine.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions about what to eat after the surgery. You'll start with only small amounts of soft foods and liquids. Bit by bit, you will be able to eat more solid foods. Your doctor may advise you to work with a dietitian. This way you'll be sure to get enough protein, vitamins, and minerals while you are losing weight. Even with a healthy diet, you may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements.

After surgery, you will not be able to eat very much at one time. You will get full quickly. Try not to eat too much at one time or eat foods that are high in fat or sugar. If you do, you may vomit, get stomach pain, or have diarrhea.

Weight loss

You probably will lose weight very quickly in the first few months after surgery. As time goes on, your weight loss will slow down. You will have regular doctor visits to check how you are doing.


It is common to have many emotions after this surgery. You may feel happy or excited as you begin to lose weight. But you may also feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the changes that you have to make in your diet, activity, and lifestyle. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns or questions.

Think of bariatric surgery as a tool to help you lose weight. It isn't an instant fix. You will still need to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. This will help you reach your weight goal and avoid regaining the weight you lose.

Why is weight-loss (bariatric) surgery done?

This type of surgery may be considered if your body mass index (BMI) is at least 40, or if it's at least 35 and you have other weight-related health problems. If your BMI is 35 or higher, surgery may be done if you have tried for at least 6 months to lose weight.

How is weight-loss (bariatric) surgery done?

Bariatric surgery may be either "open" or "laparoscopic." Open surgery is done through a large cut (incision) in the belly. Laparoscopic surgery is done through several small cuts. The doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other surgical tools through small cuts in your belly. The doctor is able to see your organs with the scope. There are different types of bariatric surgery.

Gastric sleeve surgery

The surgery is usually done through several small incisions in the belly. The doctor removes more than half of your stomach. This leaves a thin sleeve, or tube, that is about the size of a banana. Because part of your stomach has been removed, this can't be reversed.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery

Roux-en-Y (say "roo-en-why") surgery changes the connection between the stomach and the intestines.

The doctor separates a section of your stomach from the rest of your stomach. This makes a small pouch. The new pouch will hold the food you eat. The doctor connects the stomach pouch to the middle part of the small intestine.

Gastric banding surgery

The surgery is usually done through several small incisions in the belly. The doctor wraps a band around the upper part of the stomach. This creates a small pouch. The small size of the pouch means that you will get full after you eat just a small amount of food. The doctor can inflate or deflate the band to adjust the size. This lets the doctor adjust how quickly food passes from the new pouch into the stomach. It does not change the connection between the stomach and the intestines.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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