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The Journey Through Weight Loss Surgery: What to Expect

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Nearly half (43%) of adults worldwide are overweight, and another 16% battle obesity. That’s a lot of people! The good news? A whopping 45% are actively trying to lose weight.

If you’re among them and haven’t seen the results you deserve, you might be wondering about weight loss surgery (WLS). Granted, it’s a great tool, but it’s a big decision, and success rates can vary in those first six months (think 30-50%).

We’ll break down who WLS is really for and what to expect if you choose to go down that path.

Who’s WLS For?

Generally, WLS is on the table if your body mass index (BMI) hits 40 or higher. But there’s more to the story. Even with a BMI between 35 and 39.9, you might still be a candidate if you’re battling weight-related health issues like type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or constant joint pain.

WLS is often an option only when other weight loss methods haven’t budged the scale. If this sounds like what you want, you can read this guide or any similar resources to find out more about the surgical process and help you finalize your decision.

Here’s what to expect in case you settle for this process.

Preparing for Surgery

Once you’ve decided to move forward with WLS, it’s time to get prepared. Here’s what you can expect during the pre-surgery phase:

Pre-Surgery Education

Your bariatric team will likely recommend attending educational sessions. These cover everything you need to know about WLS, from what to expect before, during, and after surgery, as well as lifestyle changes post-surgery.

Medical Clearance

Before surgery, your doctor will order a series of tests to ensure you’re healthy enough to undergo WLS. These might include blood tests (blood sugar and cholesterol levels), imaging tests, and psychological evaluation. They help assess your readiness for the emotional and psychological changes that come with WLS.

Pre-operative Diet

A few weeks before surgery, you’ll likely need to follow a special pre-operative diet. This is typically low in calories and fat, and high in protein. It helps shrink your liver, making surgery easier and safer.

The specific details of your pre-operative diet will be provided by your doctor or bariatric team, but it might involve lean protein sources, low-fat dairy products, clear liquids, and so on.

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Types of Weight Loss Surgery

WLS isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are different procedures. Each comes with its own advantages and considerations. Here’s a breakdown of the three most common types of WLS to help you understand your options:

Gastric Bypass (Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass)

This is the most common type of WLS. It accounts for between 60-70% of all bariatric operations in the US. During the procedure, your surgeon creates a small pouch in your stomach and reroutes a small part of your ileum (small intestine). The pouch restricts the food amounts you can eat at once, leading to earlier feelings of fullness.

This surgery is effective for significant weight loss and can improve weight-related health conditions like type 2 diabetes. However, it’s significantly complex and has higher risk of complications like anastomotic leaks (the connection between the stomach pouch and the small intestine leaks) and nutritional deficiency.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

This surgery involves removing about 80% of your stomach. What remains is a banana-shaped sleeve pouch. The reduced stomach size significantly limits the food quantities you can consume.

This surgery is less complex than a gastric bypass and has fewer associated complications. However, it may not lead to as much weight loss as gastric bypass.

Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB)

Think about a little adjustable belt around the top part of your stomach. That’s the basic idea behind laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB).

This band creates a smaller stomach pouch so you fill up faster and eat less. The cool thing? This band can be tightened or loosened by injecting saline through a tiny port under your skin, letting you customize your food intake over time.

Another good thing about LAGB is that it’s a potentially reversible procedure. However, it may not lead to as much weight loss as other procedures. It also requires lifelong adjustments and has the potential for band slippage or erosion.

Recovery After Surgery

The typical hospital stay after WLS is relatively short, usually just a few days. During this time, you’ll be monitored closely by nurses and doctors. They’ll teach you about pain management, proper wound care, and how to manage your diet after surgery.

Following surgery, your digestive system will need time to heal. You’ll likely start with a clear liquid diet, then gradually progress to full liquids, soft foods, and eventually regular solid foods. Your bariatric team will provide you with a specific diet plan to follow during this recovery phase.

In Closing

In case you opt for WLS, you should know that it’s just the beginning of your weight loss journey. Long-term success requires follow-up with your doctor and sticking to healthy habits. Remember, your commitment might just make all the difference.

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