What Is Gastric Sleeve Surgery? Does It Lead to Weight Loss?

Weight-loss surgery reduces stomach size, limits food intake

A young, heavyset woman researches gastric sleeve surgery.

Weight-loss surgery reduces stomach size, limits food intake

Weight-loss surgery – also known as bariatric surgery – may be an option when lifestyle changes or weight medications for obesity fail to get the job done. Gastric sleeve surgery is one of the most common types of weight-loss surgeries today.

Gastric sleeve, also known as sleeve gastrectomy, accounts for more than 60 percent of bariatric surgeries, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

The procedure is designed to benefit people who need to lose a lot of weight and have related health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease.

“This surgery can help people who are severely overweight and have serious health issues related to obesity,” says William Fuller, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Scripps Clinic.

How does gastric sleeve work?

In gastric sleeve, surgeons remove as much as 80 percent of the stomach. The remaining stomach is formed into a tube-like sleeve. The smaller stomach can hold only about two ounces of food at any given time. An average stomach can hold up to two quarts.

The procedure also removes parts of the stomach that produce hormones associated with hunger. “After the surgery, patients tend to feel full or less hungry between meals,” Dr. Fuller says.

Generally, in the first six months to one year after surgery, about two-thirds of all the excess weight will be lost, if patients follow their doctor’s directions.

Is gastric sleeve surgery safe?

Studies have shown gastric sleeve is a safe procedure. However, like all major surgeries, there can be risks and complications. Unlike other bariatric surgeries, gastric sleeve surgery is not reversible.

“If you’ve been approved for gastric sleeve surgery, you’ll work closely with your care team to make sure you’re healthy enough for surgery and develop a plan for reaching your goal weight and maintaining it,” Dr. Fuller says.

Bariatric surgeons use the latest in minimally invasive or laparoscopic techniques. In gastric sleeve, surgeons make a few small incisions, resulting in less pain. Patients spend less time in the hospital, experience fewer complications and a shorter recovery time.

Whos a candidate for gastric sleeve?

Candidates for gastric sleeve surgery are carefully selected. The National Institutes of Health has developed criteria to be considered for bariatric surgery, including:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) above 40 (100 pounds or more over your ideal weight)
  • BMI between 35 and 39.9 and a serious obesity-related health problem, (type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, severe sleep apnea)
  • Been unable to lose the weight by changing diet and exercise habits or taking medication

Obese people are also at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Managing health after gastric sleeve

The best candidates are motivated and stay well-informed. They’re willing to participate in long-term care follow-up. They’re up for making major lifestyle changes, such as better eating habits and exercise habits, to achieve long-term success.

“Gastric sleeve surgery is not a magic bullet,” Dr. Fuller says. “People who have received the procedure still have to exercise and eat correctly. Ultimately, the reward for losing weight is improved overall health,” he says.

Anyone interested in gastric sleeve surgery should speak to their doctor and ask plenty of questions to see if they qualify for this procedure and if it’s a safe option for them.

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