Key Points about Gastric Bypass Surgery

  • Gastric bypass surgery is a common surgical procedure for those who are obese or severely overweight to help you lose weight.
  • During this surgery, your surgeon makes your stomach smaller and changes the way your stomach and small intestine process food. 
  • Gastric bypass surgery success depends on your ability to make permanent changes in your lifestyle. 

Overview

People who undergo gastric bypass surgery are those who have tried and been unsuccessful in losing weight with a medically supervised diet and exercise. There are two steps to this procedure. During the first step, your surgeon uses staples to create a smaller upper section and a larger bottom section in your stomach. The smaller upper section is where your food will go and it is only about one ounce. 

During the second step, your surgeon connects a small part of your small intestine to a small hole in the smaller upper section of your stomach

Candidates for gastric bypass surgery

Patients considered for this weight loss surgery have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher and often have serious health conditions caused by obesity or being extremely overweight. These conditions can include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes

Like all types of bariatric surgery, gastric bypass surgery is a tool that can help you lose weight – but it is not a quick fix. Undergoing gastric bypass means that you are committing to radically changing your life. Those who undergo gastric bypass surgery should not have any dependencies on drugs or alcohol, as these issues can make your chances for long-term success much lower.

Expectations from gastric bypass surgery

You will be under general anesthesia (fully asleep) for this procedure. After the procedure, the food you eat will now travel directly from the small area of your stomach to the small intestine, bypassing the lower, larger area of the stomach that would hold more food. Overall, your procedure will take roughly two to four hours.

Risks associated with gastric bypass surgery

As with any surgery, there are some risks, complications and disadvantages associated with gastric bypass surgery, including:

  • There is a lifelong commitment patients must make to exercise and specific diet to maintain weight
  • There is no way to reverse the procedure
  • The procedure is more involved than gastric band or sleeve gastrectomy
  • Complications including vitamin deficiencies, ulcers or nausea, vomiting or discomfort when eating too much food are common

Recovery from gastric bypass surgery

After surgery, you can expect to stay overnight in the hospital for up to four days. Each day, you will gain more strength and your health care team will ask you to complete tasks such as sitting on your bed or walking a short distance. You should try to do as much as you are able, but take breaks when needed.

Generally, you can return home from the hospital when you:

  • Are eating liquid or pureed foods without vomiting afterward
  • Can move around without too much pain
  • No longer need pain medicine through an IV or by injection

Bariatric Diet

You won’t be able to eat for one to three days after surgery. After that, you’ll eat only liquids. After a period of time, you’ll be able to eat soft foods. Finally, you’ll begin incorporating regular foods from the bariatric diet into your daily eating habits. 

Your diet will focus on high-protein, low-carb options, with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating large quantities of foods or sugary or processed foods will compromise your gastric band and could even be dangerous to your health. 

You can expect to lose 10 to 20 pounds per month for the first year after your gastric bypass. You may continue to lose weight for about two years after surgery. For your health and long-term success, you must stick to your prescribed diet and exercise plan.

When should I seek care?

If you think that you may be a candidate for gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, start by speaking with your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a bariatric provider for more specialized treatment.