I wrote this article for a Weight Loss Support Group website.  Sometime in 2007/2008.

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Gastric Bypass Surgery (GBS) is the most popular of the weight loss surgeries – with over 140,000 US citizens having the procedure performed in 2005. This number far outweighs other procedures – Lap-Band®, duodenal switch and vertical banded gastroplasty – and since GBS has been around for more than 50 years, surgeons are much more comfortable recommending this as a viable tool for weight loss.

Recently, Medicare has authorized the clinically obese the option of surgery as a form of weight-loss treatment. With the passing of this decision, many more people will be looking into Gastric Bypass Surgery – and other weight loss surgery options – as a tool in their Battle of the Bulge.

Once of the greatest developments in surgical procedures has changed the face of GBS – the laparoscopic approach. Rather than making a large incision into the patient, doctors can now perform the GBS through smaller incisions cutting the hernia and infection risks to just 1% – down from 30% with a traditional surgery.

In the laparoscopic approach – the surgeon makes 5 small incisions into the abdomen (1/2” – 1” in length) – and a surgical microscope is inserted to guide the doctor to the stomach. The stomach is divided into two sections – with the smaller pouch being used as the new stomach. This new stomach can hold just 2 ounces of food – a drastic reduction from the typical 2 quarts of a full sized stomach – the patient feels fuller and learns quickly to control their portion sizes.

“The results of the procedure speak for themselves,” said George Zorn, M.D., F.A.C.S., surgeon at Pacific Bariatric Medical Surgical Group and Scripps Mercy Hospital. “This procedure enables patients to make the lifestyle changes – diet and exercise – that will help them achieve a healthier body weight.”

The benefits of the surgery are almost immediate. You have to remember that Gastric Bypass Surgery is a tool for weight loss – and is only the beginning of the hard work to follow. Patients must still learn to eat a healthier diet, and to exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But – it is an effective tool! Patients have been studied and it has been learned that hormonal changes may be taking place in the body after surgery – these changes appear to relieve the patient of any cravings they may have had – making them more satisfied with the healthier foods they are eating. This decrease in hunger and the rapid feeling of fullness accounts for most of the weight loss after a gastric bypass.

Some patients have even experienced an intolerance to sweets after GBS – called “Dumping Syndrome”. This is basically the body rejecting any food with too many sugars or complex carbohydrates. The new stomach does not have the ability to process the refined sugars – and therefore “Dumps” the offending matter out of the system in anyway possible. Patients often feel dizzy and lightheaded, have heart palpitations , experience abdominal cramping and the obvious following rush to the nearest restroom! A punishment of sorts for not eating healthy.

Weight loss surgery is considered successful when you have reached a 50% reduction and the weight loss is sustained over a 5 year period. I have found literally hundreds of success stories on the internet – women mostly – who want to share their success with the world. I found one story quiet amazing. In 1998, Sue Barr weighed in over 500 pounds. Today she is down to 152 pounds – and is maintaining her weight! You can find her website here: [url=http://www.mygastricbypass.com/]My Gastric Bypass[/url]. When asked if she had to decide today to have the surgery again, Sue replied: “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!”

There are horror stories out there on the web too – don’t think that Gastric Bypass Surgery is without its flaws. There are side effects, complications, and maintenance that needs to take place in order for this process to be fully complete. While the mortality rate with this surgery is relatively low, people have died from the procedure.

This is a money making endeavor – with obesity reaching record numbers in the United States, more and more people are turning to surgeons to have this procedure done – and there are many surgeons who will say “I can do that!” with little to no training. Be sure to research – research – RESEARCH – your surgeon before any procedure takes place. Your surgeon will do everything they can to convince you that this surgery is the right thing for you – they want that fat paycheck at the end of the day.

The two most common causes of death after GBS are an anastomotic leak and a pulmonary embolism. An anastomotic leak can occur when a complete seal is not formed during the connection from bowel to bowel, or bowel to stomach. Fluid leaks out of the bowel into the abdominal cavity and may cause a serious infection or abscess. – and can result in a rather rapid death, when the intestinal fluids leak into the abdominal cavity. Symptoms include shortness of breath, palpitations, and severe chest and abdominal pain – and should be treated as soon as possible. Other complications include bowel obstruction, strictures, ulcers, bleeding and prolonged nausea.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Washington found that 1 in 50 people die within one month of having gastric bypass surgery, and that figure jumps nearly fivefold if the surgeon is inexperienced. – with 50% suffering from immediate complications and the other 50% from long term complications. 25% off all patients will experience some sort of complication from the procedure – whether it be a hernia or gall stones – or just a vitamin deficiency.

All risks should be discussed with your physician – and researched independently – before deciding to have this procedure done.

After a successful Gastric Bypass Surgery – patients must contend with learning healthy eating habits, learning exercise and fitness techniques, and basically learning an entirely new lifestyle. Typically patients lose weight so rapidly that they are left with large pockets and folds of excess skin, muscle loss, and unsightly fat tissue. This must be removed via plastic surgery and/or liposuction. This procedure will leave you with scars – so it is a personal decision whether to wait for mother nature to deal with the excess skin – or to go forward with the plastic surgery.

For more information on Gastric Bypass Surgery from a patients standpoint – and other weight loss surgical procedures – I found this great resource on the web: [url=http://www.bariatric-surgery.info/]Bariatric Surgery[/url].

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), in collaboration with the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction, put together a panel of experts to discuss and evaluate Gastric Bypass surgery. The panel used state-of-the-art modeling systems to make best practice recommendations on the surgery. The study was done in 2004 and the full-report can be found downloaded as a word document at: [url=http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dph/patient_safety/weight_loss_executive_report.doc]MDPH Medical Panel[/url] The panel recommends that constant monitoring of new procedures, and continued open communication with Weight Loss Centers, institutions and providers will ensure that patients receive the best care possible when undergoing weight loss surgery. It was felt that strict standards needed to be set in place in order to avoid inexperienced practitioners from performing the procedures. The greatest chance of death after surgery stemmed from complications due to the surgeons own inexperience.

The key here – when considering weight loss surgery of any kind – is to find an experienced surgeon to perform the procedure. Do your due diligence in researching the credentials of your surgeon – and know without a doubt that the surgeon can perform the procedure successfully. Find out what their own personal success rate is – ask the surgeon and then look up the data through your own states Medical Association. If you are not confident that your surgeon has the experience to perform the surgery – look for another surgeon. This procedure is not a magical cure for weight loss – but an effective tool to be used in conjunction with other important lifestyle changes.

ALWAYS talk to your own physician about any medical procedure you are considering – we at Get Off Your Fat Butt are in no way medical experts. We gather the information together and put it out there for you to read – and allow you to research further on your own.

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