Is it Worth it to Have a Gastric Bypass?
When you’re considering any elective medical procedure, you need to know the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. The choice of whether or not to have elective surgery is very personal, and every person will make their choice differently. Here, we’ll discuss the major risks and benefits of having a gastric bypass. If you want to learn more about what the procedure and the recovery are like, please visit Gastric Bypass: the Procedure and Recovery. For more about the many resources Doctor Review has to offer, you can check out our Bariatric Surgery Overview page.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
Any surgery has risks, and they should be carefully weighed before you decide to proceed. There is a risk of a hernia developing in the abdominal wall where the incisions were made. This means that internal organs poke through the abdominal wall, causing pain and potentially other problems. There is a chance of infection, which may require antibiotics and may also lead to a less aesthetically-pleasing result. There is also a chance of excessive bleeding during the surgery, which occasionally requires a blood transfusion. Some people react badly to anesthesia. There is a small risk of death due to any surgery. Although it’s important to be informed, these risks are small in most healthy people; talk with your surgeon to determine your personal risk.
The gastric bypass procedure also has specific risks. Because this is a technically more complex procedure than some other types of bariatric surgery, there is a longer hospital stay (a few days) required, and greater potential for complications than with a lap band or sleeve gastrectomy. In addition to the risk of a hernia in the abdominal wall at the incision sites, there is also a risk of an internal hernia developing in the places where the intestines were connected to the stomach and to other intestines; this type of hernia can cause serious problems and would need to be addressed immediately with further surgery. Additionally, the intestinal connections that were surgically created sometimes develop strictures, meaning that they become narrow due to scar tissue and cannot pass through adequate food.
The small intestine is the location where nutrients are absorbed from food. Because the gastric bypass decreases the amount of small intestine through which food passes, the surgery can potentially cause deficiencies of various nutrients. This problem is compounded by the very small stomach, because the patient may not be able to eat enough nutrients in the first place, and then what is eaten is not fully absorbed. As a result, gastric bypass patients may suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Common nutrients in which people become deficient include calcium, iron, folate, and vitamin B12. After this procedure, people need lifelong supplementation with vitamins and minerals, as well as regular monitoring by doctors to ensure that they have adequate nutrition.
The benefits of bariatric surgery can occur in many areas of a person’s life. The dramatic weight loss usually has a huge impact on self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, it gives people the chance to participate in many activities, particularly physical activities, that they were previously unable to be a part of because their excessive weight and lack of energy prevented it. Besides the impact on the person’s lifestyle, bariatric surgery can also impact health. Excessive weight is linked to many diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Many studies have shown a partial or complete improvement in patients with type 2 diabetes who undergo bariatric surgery. The improvement is partly explained by the weight loss, but there are also changes in hormones and other factors that contribute to the improvement in health.
Gastric bypass has some specific advantages over other weight loss surgery. Because it affects the absorption of calories as well as their consumption, this surgery can cause greater amounts of weight loss than some other types of bariatric surgery (including the “lap band” and sleeve gastrectomy). It may also have a greater effect on hormones, potentially leading to a larger decrease in the rate and severity of diabetes.
According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons, the average fee for bariatric surgery is around $12,000 to $26,000. This varies between surgeons and in different regions, so check with the surgeon you’re considering to find out the exact price. Additional costs, including the anesthesia, operating room fees, medications, and possibly additional items, may not be included in this fee. For more detail, please see our Gastric Bypass Cost page.