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What's it like: To get a sleeve gastrectomy

Jaclyn Cosgrove: Sleeve gastrectomy is a type of weight-loss surgery.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: December 8, 2013

Why get the surgery?

A sleeve gastrectomy is one option that people take when looking for a type of weight-loss surgery.

Generally, the surgery is performed for people who have a body mass index higher than 40, which translates to a person who is about 100 pounds overweight, or for people who have a BMI of 35 or higher and a medical condition associated with obesity, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or sleep apnea.

These guidelines are similar to the criteria that Medicare and some insurance companies have in place to determine whether they will cover a person's surgery.

A surgeon might also perform a sleeve gastrectomy on someone who suffers from gastroparesis, a disorder also referred to as “delayed gastric emptying” that slows or stops food moving from a person's stomach to the small intestine.

What happens?

During a sleeve gastrectomy, your doctor will remove about 80 percent of your stomach, leaving your stomach similar to the size and shape of a banana.

About two weeks before surgery, your doctor will sometimes place you on a low-calorie diet. This can help decrease the size of your liver and decrease the amount of belly fat you have, which would make the operation easier.

The day of surgery, you will be placed under general anesthesia, meaning you'll be asleep.

Most surgeons perform the surgery using a small camera called a laparoscope. Your surgeon will make a few small cuts on your stomach and place the camera and other operating tools inside of you.

Your surgeon might use a medical stapling tool to staple off the section of your stomach that's being removed and the section of your stomach that's staying.

After your stomach is stapled off, the medical team might test it for leaks. To do this, they might put your stomach in saline and then pump gas into your stomach through your mouth. If everything looks OK, they will then remove about 80 percent of your stomach.

Does it hurt?

When you wake up, you might be nauseous. You might start a liquid diet that day.

You will likely be sore where the cuts are on your abdomen, especially near the cut where the stomach was removed.

Also, your shoulder might hurt because of the gas used to inflate your abdomen. It's referred pain — the gas irritates your diaphragm, which has nerves in the spinal cord near the shoulder nerves. This sometimes causes your shoulder to hurt because of the pressure of the gas. It should clear up in 24 hours to 48 hours.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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