Gastric sleeve surgery is a weight-loss procedure in which the stomach is reduced and formed into a tube-like shape. As the stomach becomes smaller, a patient requires smaller portion of food, therefore he consumes less calories and loses weight. As all other surgical procedures, gastric sleeve has advantages and disadvantages and must be carefully thought through.
The main advantage of this procedure is that after gastric sleeve it is easier to feel satisfaction with smaller portions of food. This is due to two reasons. Firstly, as the surgeon reduces the stomach, the amount of hormones and other biochemicals involved in the sense of hunger also goes down. Secondly, some people feel satisfaction only after they have physically filled their stomach fully. After gastric sleeve the space necessary to be filled is remarkably smaller, therefore less food is required. All this allows consuming less calories and weight is lost. It is extremely effective if combined with physical exercise and a healthy diet. Significant loss of weight also leads to the improvement of blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver disease and many other conditions.
Gastric sleeve operation is less invasive than other bariatric operations (like gastric bypass) with no cutting, disconnection or alteration of small intestines. This reduces the risk of many surgical complications. Moreover, since the intestines as not altered, the absorption of minerals and vitamins is minimally affected and no dietary supplements are needed afterwards. This also means that gastric sleeve surgery has no associated dietary restrictions – the patient is able to eat everything that he or she used to enjoy before the operation.
After gastric sleeve the outlet valve (the pyloris) of the stomach remains intact, different than after some other bariatric operations. There is no risk of the so-called “dumping syndrome”. With this syndrome the food passes through the stomach unaffected by gastric juice and causes indigestion, pain, diarrhea and other symptoms.
No foreign artificial devices (such as a gastric band) are put inside the body. So there is nothing to slip, erode or cause infection.
Using laparoscopy, this surgery can be performed even on extremely obese patients. Finally, if the gastric sleeve operation fails to reach the desired weight loss effect, then another surgery (gastric bypass or duodenal switch) can be performed.
The greatest disadvantage of this procedure is that it is irreversible. A big part of the stomach is permanently removed and a new small pouch is formed. It is more sensitive to poorly chewed and quickly eaten food. To avoid vomiting and discomfort, some patients have to learn how to eat slower and more thoughtfully.
Another problem is that some patients keep trying to eat the same amount of food that they used to, in spite of physical satisfaction. Since there is no device to stop from overfilling the new stomach it stretches. Because of constant overfilling, it enlarges and even more food can be consumed. This increases the calorie intake and a patient regains the weight that has been lost. The surgery does not limit liquid food and drink consumption either. So uncontrolled drinking of high calorie drinks might impede the patient’s weight loss or, in some cases, even cause weight gain.
As any other surgical procedure gastric sleeve surgery has a risk of complications. This includes, but is not limited to infection, pneumonia, blood cloths, post operative pain, etc. Leakage is very dangerous, because the gastric juices damage the surrounding internal organs and make it easy for an infection to occur. Although the risk of complications is very low, it is higher for more obese patients.
Since gastric sleeve is a relatively new procedure, it has a short medical historyand not all possible long-term effects are known.