Gastric Bypass

Gastric bypass, also called Roux-en-Y (roo-en-wy) gastric bypass, is a type of weight-loss surgery that involves creating a small pouch from the stomach and connecting the newly created pouch directly to the small intestine. After gastric bypass, swallowed food will go into this small pouch of stomach and then directly into the small intestine, thereby bypassing most of your stomach and the first section of your small intestine.

Gastric bypass is one of the most common types of bariatric surgery in the United States. Gastric bypass is done when diet and exercise haven’t worked or when you have serious health problems because of your weight.

Why it’s done

Gastric bypass is done to help you lose excess weight and reduce your risk of potentially life-threatening weight-related health problems, including:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Infertility

Gastric bypass is typically done only after you’ve tried to lose weight by improving your diet and exercise habits.

Who it’s for

In general, gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries could be an option for you if:

  • Your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher (extreme obesity).
  • Your BMI is 35 to 39.9 (obesity), and you have a serious weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea. In some cases, you may qualify for certain types of weight-loss surgery if your BMI is 30 to 34 and you have serious weight-related health problems.

But gastric bypass isn’t for everyone who is severely overweight. You may need to meet certain medical guidelines to qualify for weight-loss surgery. You likely will have an extensive screening process to see if you qualify.

You must also be willing to make permanent changes to lead a healthier lifestyle. You may be required to participate in long-term follow-up plans that include monitoring your nutrition, your lifestyle and behaviour, and your medical conditions.

Risks

As with any major surgery, gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries pose potential health risks, both in the short term and long term.

Risks associated with the surgical procedure are similar to any abdominal surgery and can include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Leaks in your gastrointestinal system

Longer term risks and complications of gastric bypass can include:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Dumping syndrome, causing diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Gallstones
  • Hernias
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Malnutrition
  • Stomach perforation
  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting

Rarely, complications of gastric bypass can be fatal.

Food and medications

Before your surgery, give your doctor and any other health care providers a list of all medicines, vitamins, minerals, and herbal or dietary supplements you take. You may have restrictions on eating and drinking and which medications you can take.

If you take blood-thinning medications, talk with your doctor before your surgery. Because these medications affect clotting and bleeding, your blood-thinning medication routine may need to be changed.

If you have diabetes, talk with the doctor who manages your insulin or other diabetes medications for specific instructions on taking or adjusting them after surgery.

Other precautions

You will be required to start a physical activity program and to stop any tobacco use.

You may also need to prepare by planning ahead for your recovery after surgery. For instance, arrange for help at home if you think you’ll need it.

Results

Gastric bypass can provide long-term weight loss. The amount of weight you lose depends on your type of surgery and your change in lifestyle habits. It may be possible to lose 60 percent, or even more, of your excess weight within two years.

In addition to weight loss, gastric bypass may improve or resolve conditions often related to being overweight, including:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Infertility

Gastric bypass can also improve your ability to perform routine daily activities, which could help improve your quality of life.

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