Pros and Cons of Weight Loss Surgery

pros and cons weight loss surgery

Weight loss surgery allows many people to experience improved health and quality of life; however, it does have some potential downsides. Today, we will explore the pros and cons of weight loss surgery to help patients make more informed decisions.

After bariatric surgery, in addition to the life-altering modifications to your diet, many other changes can occur that come as a surprise to many patients. You may experience changes in your emotions, relationships, social life, and basically, your entire lifestyle.

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Many bariatric surgery patients only consider the weight loss potential and feel that surgery may be an easy way out of whatever their situation is. It is definitely not easy and might just be one of the hardest things you ever do. Understanding the pros and cons of weight loss surgery will help individuals be better prepared so they can achieve success.

Comprehending the Benefits vs Risks of Bariatric Surgery

The success of weight loss surgery depends on the patient’s determination to make lifelong changes in their lifestyle including diet, exercise, and mindset. Studies have proven that individuals who have weight loss surgery and are committed to the life-long aftercare process experience many benefits and improved quality of life.

While there are some sacrifices involved, and sometimes side effects that are associated with bariatric surgery, most patients would report that it is worth the trade-off. Partnering with a knowledgeable and experienced bariatric surgeon like the experts at the IBI Healthcare Institute is a key element in minimizing risks that are associated with weight loss surgery.

To better understand the benefits of bariatric weight loss, join our free online bariatric seminar.

The Pros of Weight Loss Surgery

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and the statistics are staggering. According to the CDC, about 40% of the adult population age 20+ in the U.S. are obese with another 31% overweight. Obesity is associated with several diseases and conditions that can affect the quality of life and also result in premature death.

Today we are fortunate to have many bariatric weight loss options that can assist us in fighting this epidemic. For patients suffering from obesity-related health conditions, bariatric surgery can literally be a lifesaver. Some of the pros for undergoing bariatric surgery include:

1. Extending Lifespan

Obese patients who had weight loss surgery live longer than obese patients with similar key indicators such as age, sex, BMI, and obesity-related health issues. A study published in 2018 by The Journal Of The American Medical Association reported a correlation between individuals who had weight loss surgery and a longer life span.

2. Reducing Risks for Coronary Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, and Other Obesity-Related Conditions

The results of a study presented at a meeting of The American Society for Metabolic Surgery reported a 40% decline in the risk for coronary artery disease among the group of patients who had weight loss surgery. One year after their bariatric surgery 40% of patients experienced complete remission of type 2 diabetes and 44% no longer had pulmonary arterial hypertension (elevated blood pressure in the arteries that go from the heart to the lungs).

Type 2 Diabetes – there have been numerous studies related to the association between obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to a study published by Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism:

Over 50% of adults who were suffering from type 2 diabetes experienced remission after having gastric bypass surgery.

One noteworthy observation was that surgery performed on younger patients who had not had type 2 diabetes for a long time entered complete remission. This makes a case for undergoing bariatric weight loss surgery before health-related issues such as type 2 diabetes become advanced.

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High blood pressure is also associated with obesity and has been included in studies regarding its response to bariatric surgery. In one study, more than 30% of patients were able to adjust their medications due to improvements in their high blood pressure after losing weight. Some patients also experienced remission of the condition.

Sleep apnea – there have been several studies that have proven a link between obesity and the occurrence of sleep apnea. In one such study, conducted in Sweden 66% of patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery showed remission of sleep apnea in the two-year follow up period.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – having excess fat can cause insulin resistance which makes the pancreas work overtime to produce enough insulin just to maintain the body’s normal levels of blood glucose. If left untreated, it will lead to diabetes. A study published in 2019 states that 50% to 75% of obese people suffer from NAFLD and they are also two and a half times more likely to contract heart disease.

Osteoarthritis is the medical term that describes an arthritis type of wear-and-tear on the joints. Patients that were observed during a study involving bariatric surgery and related health conditions noted that even as little as a 10% reduction in weight improved symptoms related to osteoarthritis.

Fertility – obesity interferes with the female reproductive cycle and undergoing weight loss surgery often alleviates this condition. Women report having normal menstrual cycles anywhere between 3 months and 12 months after surgery.

3. Providing Long-Term Weight Loss

Weight loss surgery helps boost success rates higher than dieting and exercise alone. In fact, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), approximately 90% of patients who undergo weight loss surgery can maintain at least half of their initial weight loss long-term.

4. Fighting Depression and Boosting Self Esteem

After losing weight, approximately 97% of patients report feeling more self-confident and more optimistic. A positive body image is associated with lower depression symptoms in weight loss patients.

Often following bariatric surgery, patients undergo cosmetic surgery to repair loose skin and other damage resulting from rapid weight loss. The healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle required after bariatric surgery are also conducive to a more positive outlook.

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Weight Loss Surgery Cons

There have been many advancements in bariatric surgery over the past few decades. With the introduction of laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures, the risks have been reduced by significant margins. However, all surgeries (including weight loss surgery) still carry some risk.

Many of the risks associated with bariatric surgery are well-known, and then there are a few that may be a surprise for you. Read over the possible downsides of weight loss surgery so you can set your expectations about what your new life may look like post-surgery.

The general risks associated with any surgical intervention are:

  • Risks associated with the use of general anesthesia;
  • Bleeding;
  • Infection;
  • Blood clots.

1. Risks Associated With Weight Loss Surgery

Many people who research bariatric weight loss surgery easily find the surgical risks and side effects associated with each procedure. However, there is little information that outlines how the surgery may affect life in the long term.

Following are what some patients may consider “downsides” to think about before undergoing bariatric surgery.

2. Physical and Mental Fatigue

Bariatric surgery is not magic but it acts as a tool alongside diet and exercise. It is going to require hard work and daily commitment to living a new lifestyle full of healthy choices, it can be quite exhausting for some patients.

3. Changes In Social Life

Since your dietary habits have to undergo serious changes, you may need to re-think and avoid certain social situations that revolve around eating. This may frustrate friends who normally participate in these situations with you and you may find it hard to continue spending time with them.

People who have not had bariatric surgery rarely understand what weight loss patients are dealing with, and they find it hard to support their friends’ new lifestyle. For the weight loss patient, this is a tough situation because sometimes it comes down to a choice between their new healthy lifestyle, staying on track, and spending time with friends.

For many, bariatric support groups, both online and in-person, can offer help, advice, and a new social circle of like-minded individuals.

4. Non-Improvement of Psychological Issues

Many obese patients stress-eat or eat to gain emotional comfort. Weight loss surgery is not able to solve these types of issues and may result in disappointment due to unrealistic expectations. It is recommended that patients seek ongoing professional assistance throughout their weight loss journey to address these issues and achieve total wellness.

5. Excess Skin and Body Image

Many weight loss patients have expectations of looking a certain way after they lose weight but in reality, they may feel like they look worse. The aftermath of quick weight loss: loose skin, stretch marks, sagging breasts, etc. may cause as much emotional distress as the extra weight did.

There are many solutions offered today through cosmetic procedures that can alleviate and repair many of these issues. Multiple procedures are often needed and their associated costs may be high. Most cosmetic surgery centers offer financing that can help patients start the process.

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5. Altered Alcohol Metabolism

Some patients who undergo bariatric surgery experience a condition called alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a long-term side effect. The condition causes the body to process alcohol differently than it had previously. Depending on the type of bariatric surgery and patient history, some doctors highly discourage drinking any alcohol after certain procedures.

6. Hair Loss

Some patients experience hair loss three to six months after bariatric surgery. This can come as quite a surprise and a shock if the patient is not expecting it. After any surgery, hair loss is possible because the normal growth cycle of your follicle is interrupted. It is normally temporary and not a cause for concern.

Pros and Cons by Weight Loss Procedure Type

Gastric Sleeve Pros & Cons

During gastric sleeve, about 75% of the stomach is surgically removed reducing the amount of food the patient can eat at one time.

Pros Cons
  • Good gateway surgery for morbid obesity or people who might experience complications from a more involved bariatric surgery. Losing some initial weight could pave the way for a different procedure such as gastric bypass in the future which would help the patient lose even more weight.
  • Patients can lose weight relatively fast with a large majority of weight coming off in the first 3 to 6 months.
  • There is no re-configuration of the digestive system so there is a lower risk of deficiencies.
  • Results can last a lifetime if the patient commits to lifestyle changes necessary.
  • This surgery is irreversible.
  • Weight regain is possible if necessary lifestyle changes are not adhered to.
  • Nutritional supplements are required for life.
  • Risks associated with surgery in general.

Gastric Bypass Pros & Cons

During gastric bypass, the surgeon removes about 80% of the stomach and also reroutes the digestive system to bypass a large section of the digestive tract which not only limits how much the patient can eat in one sitting but also how many calories are absorbed.

Pros Cons
  • Fast, dramatic weight loss results. Patients can lose up to 50% of total excess weight in 3-6 months and 75% in the first year.
  • Quick recovery or remission in weight-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure.
  • Results can last a lifetime with continued dietary and lifestyle changes.
  • Lifetime supplements are required to prevent deficiencies which is a known side effect of this procedure.
  • Risk of infection, blood clots, and gallstones.
  • General risks associated with surgery.

Adjustable Gastric Lap Band Pros & Cons

A gastric lap band is a temporary surgical device that is placed around the stomach and expanded to shrink the size of the upper stomach. Food intake is limited due to the smaller stomach size.

Pros Cons
  • A gastric band is temporary and can be removed at any time.
  • The size of the band can be adjusted to fit as needed.
  • Fewer nutritional deficiency risks.
  • Helps patients lose 30-42% excess weight in a year.
  • Short recovery time.
  • Slower weight loss.
  • The band may slip or leak causing pain requiring additional surgery.
  • Requires regular fills.
  • Port may become infected, migrate, or malfunction.
  • Requires periodic adjusting by doctor.

Duodenal Switch Pros & Cons

During duodenal switch surgery, about 80% of the stomach is removed and the digestive system is rerouted to skip parts of the small intestine and decrease absorption of calories. This surgery tends to work well on morbidly obese patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes and it offers both restrictive and malabsorptive techniques.

Pros Cons
  • Offers the fastest and most significant weight loss results of all other bariatric surgery options.
  • Many patients experience remission from many weight-related health problems, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Offers excellent long-term success.
  • Patients must commit to daily supplements for life to counteract malabsorptive properties of the surgery to avoid malnutrition.
  • Dumping syndrome is possible if the recommended diet is not adhered to (diarrhea, nausea, rapid heartbeat, fainting, etc).
  • Risk of gallstones.
  • Risks generally associated with surgery.

Your bariatric surgeon will evaluate your overall health and personal circumstances and then discuss with you whether the benefits gained through bariatric surgery will outweigh the risks and potential side effects. They will also consult with you to ensure you understand the level of commitment you are making to lose weight and become healthy.

Bariatric surgery is not a once-and-done kind of procedure, it requires a lifetime of ongoing maintenance. Taking supplements to avoid malnutrition, eating small meals consisting of the right foods in a certain order, maintaining a physical exercise routine, and keeping up with ongoing support are all critical for long-term success after bariatric surgery.

It is not easy, it is tough and it will require hard work, however the significant weight loss, alleviation of weight-related health issues, increased energy levels, boost in self-confidence, and tremendous increase in quality of life are what most patients say make it all worth it!

If you are considering undergoing bariatric surgery and would like to learn more, please contact IBI Healthcare Institute for a consultation. We are committed to helping you during your entire weight loss journey from choosing the right procedure to assisting you along the way to achieve your weight loss goals. If you are ready to take that first step towards becoming a healthier you, call us today.

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