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Bariatric Surgery Offers Long-Term Health Benefits

January 18, 2021
Weight Loss Bariatric Surgery

The start of a New Year inspires us to lose weight and improve our health.

However, sometimes the challenge of losing weight is complicated by other factors that could be addressed by bariatric surgery. Catholic Health’s Chairman of Bariatric Services Shawn Garber, MD, said candidates for a bariatric procedure are based on the Body Mass Index (BMI), which measures a person’s height to weight ratio.

“Individuals with a BMI of more than 40 qualify for surgery,” Dr. Garber explained. “Those with a BMI of 35 with one medical problem related to obesity such as diabetes, hypertension or sleep apnea also qualify.”

While there are cosmetic benefits associated with bariatric surgery, the health benefits are considerable. There are a host of comorbidities related to obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Additionally, those who are obese are at greater risk should they contract the COVID-19 virus.

For those who feel a bariatric procedure would help with weight loss and improve their overall health, Dr. Garber shared his expertise about the surgery and the steps involved in the recovery.

Q: Please explain what bariatric surgery is and how it helps individuals with weight loss?

A: Bariatric surgery is weight-loss surgery that limits the size of the stomach so the individual feels full quickly. As a result, less food is consumed and the patient loses weight. Additionally, the surgery also helps decrease the hunger hormone Ghrelin, and in some cases also limits the absorption of some of the calories that a person eats.

Q: Are there “typical” causes of being overweight?

A: Obesity is multifactorial. There are many factors that contribute to why someone is overweight. Those factors include behavioral, environmental and genetic, among others.

Q: Please describe the bariatric procedure.

A: The most common surgery currently is laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. It is performed through a minimally invasive technique with one to five very small quarter-inch incisions. The stomach is then stapled and divided to make it into a thin narrow tube – the shape of a sleeve. In some cases, we perform laparoscopic gastric bypass through five small incisions and create a stomach pouch about the size of an egg. A piece of small intestine is connected to this little pouch. The food you eat goes into this stomach pouch and directly into the intestines, bypassing most of the stomach and a portion of the small intestine.

Q: What steps should the patient take in the weeks following surgery? 

A: Patients are monitored by a comprehensive team of surgeons, nutritionists and psychologists. For the first six weeks following surgery the patient is on a soft diet. Afterward, the patient advances to a regular diet. Also, they need to avoid heavy lifting for the first four to six weeks following surgery. Most are able to return to work a week after the procedure.

Q: What changes does the patient need to make to their eating habits post-surgery?

A: Patients need to eat slowly. They need to avoid drinking within 30 minutes of eating and stop eating when they feel full.

Q: What role does exercise play for a patient following surgery? 

A: Exercise always plays an important role in weight loss. The more the patient exercises, the more calories are burned and the more successful the surgery is.

More information on Catholic Health’s Bariatric Surgery program may be obtained by calling 1 (855) CHS -4500.

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