Surgical Weight Loss FAQs
These FAQs are general and may not always pertain to your individual case. It's important to ask your physician these questions as well as any others you may have.
How do I know if surgical weight loss is right for me?
Gastric bypass or laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding surgery may be the next step for people who are looking for a permanent weight loss solution after trying nonsurgical approaches, or, for people who have an obesity-related disease. You may be a candidate for surgical weight loss if you:
- Are 100 pounds or more above your ideal weight or have a BMI of 40 or higher.
- Have a BMI of at least 35 and are diagnosed with at least one or more serious obesity related conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or sleep apnea.
- Have no severe medical, psychological or emotional conditions that would render surgery too risky.
- Have no dependence on drugs or alcohol, or have been sober for a year.
- Have tried and failed at previous efforts to lose weight.
- Understand the seriousness of the surgery and the necessity for a lifelong personal commitment to a healthier diet and lifestyle.
- Have obesity-related physical problems that interfere with employment, walking or family function
Remember: There are no guarantees for any method, including surgery, to produce and maintain weight loss. Success is possible only with maximum cooperation and commitment to behavioral change and medical follow-up -- and this cooperation and commitment must be carried out for the rest of your life. Sentara offers personalized support following weight loss surgery, including support groups, counseling, nutrition and fitness programs for a successful weight loss goal.
What questions should I discuss with my primary care doctor?
- How would I benefit surgical weight loss?
- In my current health condition, what are the best options for me?
- Am I a candidate for a particular surgical procedure?
- What other health considerations should I have regarding surgery?
- What are the other steps I should take to prepare for the operation?
How do I find out more about the surgery?
Your first step to learn more about surgical weight loss is to attend an information seminar given by a weight loss surgeon. Call 1-800-SENTARA or register online to attend an information seminar.
How long does gastric bypass surgery take?
The surgery takes around two hours of operating time. This depends greatly on the patient's anatomy and whether they have adhesions inside the abdomen or have had previous surgery.
How long am I in the hospital after gastric bypass?
Most patients remain in the hospital three to six days. Minimally invasive gastric bypass surgery usually requires a hospital stay of two to three days.
How long will I be out of work?
Most patients return to work between six and eight weeks. Minimally invasive patients may return to work within five to 20 days. Plan carefully with your doctor to decide how much time you can anticipate being away from work.
What are some of the possible complications of gastric bypass?
- Over one-third of the people who have gastric bypass develop gallstones.
- People who have had this surgery are more likely to develop liver problems.
- Between 10% and 20% require a second surgery to repair a complication.The most common complication is a hernia.
- It is also possible for the staples to pull loose (so there is no longer a pouch).
- It is possible for a leak to occur from the stomach or intestine into the abdominal cavity. This will result in a serious infection called peritonitis.
There is a very small risk of death from the surgery. About 1 in 2,000 (0.5%) people die from the surgery.
- Other risks associated with major surgery include infection in the incision, an abscess inside the abdomen, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
There may be other complications - be sure to discuss concerns with your physician.
How much does gastric bypass cost?
Costs may vary greatly for this surgery, particularly on your individual needs and the type of surgery you pursue. A range of $15,000 to $20,000 is probably realistic - and some insurance providers may cover a portion of the cost. If an insurance company pays for gastric bypass, your physician will work with your insurance company to explain the procedure and the indications for the procedure - payment for the procedure is ultimately up to your insurance company.
What is life like after gastric bypass?
Patients must stick to strict dietary guidelines for several weeks following gastric bypass surgery. In addition, lifestyle changes must be made permanently. You may find it helpful to join a support group for the chance to discuss your personal and professional issues. Ask your physician about recommending a support group that will meet your needs.
How do the weight loss results of the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band compare to the gastric bypass?
The patients who have the adjustable gastric band surgery will lose weight slower than the gastric bypass, however, the long term benefits and results should mirror those of gastric bypass patients.
How long will it take to recover after lap band surgery?
The typical stay in the hospital following adjustable lap band surgery is under 23 hours. Most patients return to work within one to two weeks following surgery, and resume all activities within three to four weeks after surgery
How much weight will I lose?
The goal is to lose a healthy one to two pounds per week, however, weight loss results vary from patient to patient.
Does the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band require frequent office visits after surgery?
Frequent and regular visits to your surgeon's office are a very important part of your success. You will follow-up with your surgeon approximately every four to six weeks for the first year to 18 months. Band adjustments will be done as needed until appropriate weight loss is achieved.
Does the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band limit any physical activity?
The laparoscopic adjustable gastric band does not affect or hamper physical activity including aerobics, stretching and strenuous exercise.
How is the band adjusted?
Adjustments are made in the surgeon's office or in the hospital under x-ray, so that the access port can be clearly seen. Local anesthesia may or may not be needed. A fine needle is passed through the skin into the access port to add or remove sterile saline. This process takes about 5-10 minutes and most patients say that it is nearly painless.
Do I have to be careful with the access port just underneath my skin?
There are no restrictions based on the access port because it is placed under the skin in the abdominal wall. Once the incisions have healed, the access port should not cause discomfort, limit your movement or physical exercise. The only sensation you may experience from the port is when adjustments are made. If you feel persistent discomfort in the port area, contact your physician as soon as possible.
Can the band be removed?
Although the adjustable gastric band is not meant to be removed, it can be for certain circumstances. The stomach returns to its normal capacity after the band is removed and the possibility of weight gain is increased.
Will I need plastic surgery for the surplus skin when I have lost a lot of weight?
As a rule, plastic surgery will not be considered for at least a year or two after the operation. Sometimes the skin will mold itself around the new body tissue. You should give the skin the time it needs to adjust before you decide to have more surgery.
Will I feel hungry or deprived with the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band?
The laparoscopic adjustable gastric band makes you eat less and feel full in two ways. First, the band reduces the capacity of your stomach and increases the time it takes food to get through the digestive system. After a small meal of three to four ounces, you should feel full. As you eat less food, your body will stop storing excess calories and start using its fat energy supply. If you follow the nutrition guidelines when you choose your food, you should not feel hungry or deprived.
What will happen if I become ill?
One of the major advantages of the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band is that it can be adjusted. If your illness requires you to eat more, the band can be loosened by removing saline. When you have recovered from your illness and want to lose weight again, the band can be tightened by increasing the amount of saline. If the band cannot be loosened enough, it may be removed.