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A guide to weight loss surgery

Published On: Oct 11 2011 10:59:59 AM CDT   Updated On: Dec 27 2010 08:20:19 AM CST
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By Debbie Shumaker, Contributing writer

When considering weight loss surgery, a person must first research what is currently available.

Gastric Bypass surgery revolutionized the field when celebrities such as Carnie Wilson and Al Roker went public with their success. Thousands of people jumped on this band wagon assuming that it was an easy solution to their morbid obesity. It only took a short time before "failures" of this surgery started to appear. In the meantime, bariatric surgeons were busy creating new, less invasive ways to offer the same success, but with limited risk and failure rates and came up with the laparoscopic gastric band.

Critics of both surgical weight loss procedures have been busy comparing the pros and cons of these surgeries. The Gastric Bypass procedure permanently reduces the size of the stomach to the size of an egg, and then reroutes the digestive system in a way that makes food pass quickly through the intestinal system, resulting in less absorption of fat and calories. Patients experience rapid weight loss, but over time can regain their weight if they begin to overeat. Their stomach pouch will stretch and the quantity of food that the patient can eat increases. The more they eat, the more fat and calories are absorbed and the patient begins to gain weight.

In the Laparoscopic Gastric Band procedure, patients undergo a procedure that results in an adjustable, fully reversible tool that is used to limit the amount of food a patient can eat, and slowly changes the eating patterns that led to their obesity. Though weight loss is much slower than that of patients with the Gastric Bypass, those who adhere to the guidelines of eating with the band experience steady success.

In the banding procedure, surgeons are able to use four small incisions in the patient's abdomen to insert tools that attach a silicon band around the top of the patient's stomach, reducing the capacity of the stomach to a few ounces. The band has a thin lining that is attached to a port that is sewn to a muscle on the left side of a patient's abdominal area. As patients begin to lose significant amounts of weight, this band will become loose as the stomach decreases in size. When the patient finds that they are able to gradually eat a larger quantity of food, or experience more frequent hunger, they undergo a procedure that injects saline into the tubing of the band. The introduction of the saline causes the band to tighten around the stomach and the patient returns to a state of restriction. This ongoing adjustment helps to customize the band to each patient's needs. Weight loss is continued and can be adjusted to each individual's needs throughout their lifetime, resulting in permanent weight loss and maintenance.

There are many more procedures available today, but the Gastric Bypass and Laparoscopic Band are the most frequent choices among those seeking bariatric surgery. As the public's interest in this weight loss option increases, insurance companies are becoming strict in their criteria for approving these surgeries. Patients must undergo rigorous testing, education, and counseling before bariatric surgeons will even consider submitting the patient's request to the insurance companies. Cardiac testing, blood analysis, pulminology and sleep studies, and psychiatric and behavioral assessments are just a few of the requirements of the majority of insurance companies. Educational requirements and proof of past weight loss attempts are also included in the criteria. Surgeons are making sure that their patients are ready, willing, and strong enough to undergo the physical and emotional changes that accompany these procedures.

Both the Gastric Bypass and Laparoscopic Gastric Band have revolutionized the weight loss industry, but patients are proving that these are not miracle fixes. Each requires a strong commitment to diet and exercise to achieve success.