What you can expect
Bariatric surgery is done in the hospital using general anesthesia. This means you're unconscious during the procedure.
The specifics of your surgery depend on your individual situation, the type of weight-loss surgery you have, and the hospital's or doctor's practices. Some weight-loss surgeries are done with traditional large, or open, incisions in your abdomen.
Today, most types of bariatric surgery are performed laparoscopically. A laparoscope is a small, tubular instrument with a camera attached. The laparoscope is inserted through small incisions in the abdomen. The tiny camera on the tip of the laparoscope allows the surgeon to see and operate inside your abdomen without making the traditional large incisions. Laparoscopic surgery can make your recovery faster and shorter, but it's not suitable for everyone.
Surgery usually takes several hours. After surgery, you awaken in a recovery room, where medical staff monitors you for any complications. Depending on your procedure, you may need to stay a few days in the hospital.
Types of bariatric surgery
Each type of bariatric surgery has pros and cons. Be sure to talk to your doctor about them. Here's a look at common types of bariatric surgery:
Roux-en-Y (roo-en-wy) gastric bypass. This procedure is the most common method of gastric bypass. This surgery is typically not reversible. It works by decreasing the amount of food you can eat at one sitting and reducing absorption of nutrients.
The surgeon cuts across the top of your stomach, sealing it off from the rest of your stomach. The resulting pouch is about the size of a walnut and can hold only about an ounce of food. Normally, your stomach can hold about 3 pints of food.
Then, the surgeon cuts the small intestine and sews part of it directly onto the pouch. Food then goes into this small pouch of stomach and then directly into the small intestine sewn to it. Food bypasses most of your stomach and the first section of your small intestine, and instead enters directly into the middle part of your small intestine.
Sleeve gastrectomy. With sleeve gastrectomy, about 80% of the stomach is removed, leaving a long, tube-like pouch. This smaller stomach can't hold as much food. It also produces less of the appetite-regulating hormone ghrelin, which may lessen your desire to eat.
Advantages to this procedure include significant weight loss and no rerouting of the intestines. Sleeve gastrectomy also requires a shorter hospital stay than most other procedures.
Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch. This is a two-part surgery in which the first step involves performing a procedure similar to a sleeve gastrectomy. The second surgery involves connecting the end portion of the intestine to the duodenum near the stomach (duodenal switch and biliopancreatic diversion), bypassing the majority of the intestine.
This surgery both limits how much you can eat and reduces the absorption of nutrients. While it is extremely effective, it has greater risk, including malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.
Which type of weight-loss surgery is best for you depends on your specific situation. Your surgeon will take many factors into account, including body mass index, eating habits, other health issues, previous surgeries and the risks involved with each procedure.
After bariatric surgery
After weight-loss surgery, you generally won't be allowed to eat for one to two days so that your stomach and digestive system can heal. Then, you'll follow a specific diet for a few weeks. The diet begins with liquids only, then progresses to pureed, very soft foods, and eventually to regular foods. You may have many restrictions or limits on how much and what you can eat and drink.
You'll also have frequent medical checkups to monitor your health in the first several months after weight-loss surgery. You may need laboratory testing, blood work and various exams.