Gastric Sleeve Surgery

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Gastric sleeve surgery provides a method to treat obesity by facilitating weight loss in people with a high body mass index (BMI.) Patients lose weight when they decrease their food intake due to the reduced volume of their stomach. To ensure success, patients must alter their dietary habits to accommodate the changes in their digestive tract.

Eligibility and Preparation

People who are extremely obese with a BMI of 40 or greater may be eligible for gastric sleeve surgery. In some cases, people with a BMI less than 40 may be recommended for the procedure if they have serious health conditions such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. 

Prior to surgery, patients should quit smoking or using tobacco products. Physical exams, blood work, and other tests determine if a patient is in good health for the surgery. Pre-surgery protocols may also include an assessment of mental and emotional readiness to prepare the patient for recovery and changes that occur following the procedure.

Surgical Procedure

The surgeon performs the procedure laparoscopically, making several small incisions into the abdomen. A scope with a camera allows the surgeon to see into the abdominal cavity. The surgeon removes most of the stomach tissue, transforming it from a pouch into a banana-sized tube. The places where the stomach attaches to the esophagus and small intestine remain untouched. 

Post-Surgery Diet

Immediately following surgery, patients adhere to a no-sugar liquid diet for one week and then transition to pureed foods. Normal foods can be re-introduced one month after surgery.

Because of the newly decreased stomach capacity, patients become full after eating a small volume of food. Decreased appetite and increased satiety often result from this surgery. To ensure proper nutrition, patients should take vitamin and mineral supplements.

Weight Loss and Other Benefits

During the first year following gastric sleeve surgery, patients typically experience significant weight loss and may lose 40-70 percent of their pre-surgery body weight. In addition to weight loss, patients see improvement in other conditions associated with obesity. Decreases in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar often coincide with weight loss. Sleep apnea may also improve due to post-surgical weight loss.  

Side Effects and Complications

Rapid weight loss can cause some unwanted side effects in the first six months following the surgery. Patients may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and body aches. Hair loss and mood swings may also occur. Patients may vomit when they eat a meal that exceeds their stomach capacity.

Some patients may develop an inflammation of the stomach lining called gastritis. In rare cases, stomach contents may leak from the areas where the stomach tissue was stapled together. In addition, scar tissue may develop and create obstructions in the digestive tract.