Common Fears About Bariatric Surgery*

Choose the topic:

• Physical changes
• General anaesthesia
• Operation risk

Bariatric surgery, also called gastric surgery, helps patients to lose weight by reducing the stomach and, consequently, reducing the intake of food. It is natural to be fearful of the surgery but you can undoubtedly reduce the anxiety. What you should do is gather information about the procedure, consult your doctor and trust him. You should not think up things, if you are not sure – ask, consult your surgeon. So you can understand the facts better. The most common fears are physical changes (mostly weight regain), complications of anaesthesia and operation risk.

Physical changes

Although bariatric surgery is not cosmetic procedure, your body will change appearance and obesity related conditions will be cured. No one loses their weight immediately, after a couple of months some changes become noticeable.  It is normal to lose as much as a pound for every first 30 days after the surgery. Studies show that a person loses (over the first 2 years after the operation) 30% – 50% of excess weight after gastric binding, 40 – 50% after gastric sleeve operation, 60 – 75% after a gastric bypass and 70 – 85%after a duodenal switch.  This means that if a person has 50 kg of excess weight, he or she may expect to lose as much as 15 – 25 kg after a gastric binding.

A popular urban myth is spread that people regain more weight than they lose.  However, a wide range of scientific studies contradict it very firmly. Most of them report a weight regain ranging from 10% to 15 % of the lost weight. This means that if a person loses 25 kg after operation, he may later regain maximum of 3.75 kg. This regain usually occurs in 5 years after the surgery. Nevertheless it may be minimized further by proper diet and exercise. It is important to remember that these numbers resemble the average rate and certainly do not apply to everyone.

There is also a concern about hair loss after bariatric surgery. It happens because of stress and lack of nutrition. Hair come to the dormant phase and fall out. The most important nutritional factors for hair are proteins and iron. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent hair loss, but this condition is temporal.

On the up note, most of the patients after bariatric procedures experience a sudden burst of energy and motivation shortly after the operation that encourages them to take up healthier diets, do more exercise and give up harmful habits.

General anaesthesia

For successful anaesthesia premedication is very important. It is a series of actions and drugs that should be taken before the operation. Doctor will tell you not to eat for 24 hours before the procedure. Also, you may have to take some pills to reduce gastric acidity (omeprazole or ranitidine) or cancel blood-thinning drugs to reduce chance of bleeding. These recommendations will come from your general practitioner right before the hospitalization. Surgeons may recommend losing some weight. Then the operation becomes shorter, fewer drugs are needed, recovery process is faster and wounds heal better.

Operation risk

The majority of people do not worry about the operation itself, but about the following pain and discomfort, wound healing, long recovery period and adjusting to new habits. It is worth mentioning that most of the bariatric procedures are now performed laparoscopically. This means that the surgeon operates through 3 small holes made in your abdomen, that serve as portals for a pair of specially designed tools and a camera, that lets the operator see the view from the inside of your belly. This technique offers a less traumatic approach that ensures shorter hospital stay, faster, less painful recovery and extra small scars. Due to the small size of incision other complications as infection at the incision size, failure of the sutures or peritonitis (inflammation of the inside lining of the abdominal cavity) are also significantly reduced.