Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric Bypass · Weight Loss Surgery · Stomach Stapling

The Basics

Gastric bypass is a weight reduction surgery that reduces the size of the stomach and bypasses part of the small intestine. By doing so, the stomach is able to hold less food and fewer calories are absorbed through the small intestine.

This procedure is considered for people who have failed to lose weight through diet and exercise and meet a number of conditions:

  • between 18 and 65 years of age
  • do not have an ongoing problem with alcohol
  • do not have depression or other psychiatric disorder
  • have been obese for at least 5 years
  • have serious medical conditions related to their weight
  • have a body mass index (BMI) over 40 (or BMI over 35 combined with one or more health conditions that could be improved by weight loss, such as diabetes or heart disease)

This procedure requires permanent lifestyle changes afterwards and is not for everyone.

A large portion of the stomach is bypassed by a small stomach pouch connected directly to the small intestines.
A large portion of the stomach is bypassed by a small stomach pouch connected directly to the small intestines.

Risks and precautions

In general, surgery and the use of anesthesia come with some risks that are associated with factors like your health condition and what the surgery involves. Side effects are very rare but can include trouble breathing, reactions to the anesthetic, bleeding, infection, scarring, and death.

Gastric bypass surgery is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:

  • damage to the stomach or other organs during surgery
  • anemia
  • blood clot in the lungs or legs
  • dehydration
  • depression
  • dumping syndrome (shaking, sweating, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and diarrhea from food moving too fast through the stomach and intestines)
  • gallstones
  • gastritis
  • kidney stones
  • hernia
  • hiccups and bloating
  • infection in the incision
  • low blood sugar
  • nausea and vomiting after eating
  • nutrient (e.g., iron, vitamin B12) deficiency
  • osteoporosis
  • pneumonia
  • stomach ulcers

Talk to your doctor if you are worried about any of the symptoms or side effects you experience after this procedure.

It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.

Before the procedure

It is important that you fully understand what the procedure involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of the procedure, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.

Before your procedure, you will meet with a number of health care professionals who will assess if you are mentally ready for the procedure and committed to making the lifestyle changes that your doctor would have explained to you. You will also have to have a number of tests, such as a complete physical exam, blood tests, and an ultrasound.

You may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; follow the timing that your doctor recommended. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; however, you may continue to drink clear liquids until 2 hours before the procedure.

If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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