What's It Like: To get gastric bypass surgery

Gastric bypass surgery can help you lose weight and thus alleviate certain health problems related to obesity. Common health problems that people who are obese suffer from include diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and problems with joints.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: April 29, 2012

Why get gastric bypass surgery?

Doctors might suggest bariatric surgery, or weight-loss surgery, for people with a Body Mass Index of 35 or 40 or greater. The Body Mass Index is calculated from weight and height and is a way to estimate body fat.

A BMI of 40 or more likely means you are 100 pounds or more over your healthy weight and thus might be a good candidate for weight-loss surgery.

Once you and your doctor decide that weight-loss surgery is a good option for you, one of the next decisions will be what kind of weight-loss surgery you should have.

Gastric bypass surgery can help you lose weight and thus alleviate certain health problems related to obesity. Common health problems that people who are obese suffer from include diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and problems with joints.

It's important to discuss your eating habits with your doctor. This will help determine which surgery might work best for you.

What happens when you get gastric bypass surgery?

During this surgery, you will be put under anesthesia, or put to sleep, and have a breathing tube inserted.

Gastric bypass can be done in two ways — by open surgery or by using a tiny camera called a laparoscope. If your surgeon is performing open surgery, he or she will make a large surgical cut to open up your belly.

If you're getting laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon will make small incisions, about an inch long, on your abdomen, and then place instruments inside of your abdomen, along with a camera, that allow him or her to maneuver and have a better visual.

Next, the medical team will take a small portion of your stomach and divide it off from the rest of the stomach, disconnecting it from the rest of your stomach. Next, they will take a piece of small intestine and reattach it to that pouch. This restricts you from eating as much.

Advantages to a laparoscopic surgery include less pain, a shorter hospital stay and small scars.

Before you have weight-loss surgery, most insurance companies will require you to have about six months of documented medical weight loss, working with your family doctor to try to lose weight.

Also, you will see a dietitian to discuss what your post-surgery diet will be along with eating habits and portion control.

Does it hurt?

Right after surgery, you likely will have pain at the incision site. If the doctor had to convert from a laparoscopic surgery to an open surgery because of complications, you will have a longer incision and thus might have more pain.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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