Gastric bypass is a remarkable operation - which undoubtedly transforms the lives of those who have it. Few other operations for any condition are associated with such great rewards. Individuals are unleashed from a life in which they are obsessed with their weight and what they can or can’t eat, to a life where the focus on food is somewhat diminished, and replaced by more positive life experiences. The majority of our former patients see their decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery as one of the best they have ever made. Providing you are realistic about the risks and drawbacks as well as the benefits, you are very unlikely to regret your decision.
Mr Richard Stubbs, MD, FRC, FRACS
The most immediate and obvious benefit from substantial weight loss is an almost universal improvement in self-esteem and self confidence. Most people become more active physically and socially, and find their personal relationships benefit enormously.
Obesity increases the risk of life-shortening diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. It also causes other problems such as asthma, sleep apnoea, back and joint problems, infertility, depression, and heartburn. Most, if not all of these conditions, are resolved or alleviated by substantial and permanent weight loss. Patients suffering from diabetes and hypertension, in particular, often see immediate and dramatic results post-surgery.
Risks of undergoing major surgery
Gastric bypass is a major operation and because of your weight and the possibility of pre-existing hypertension and diabetes the risks of complications after surgery are greater than individuals of more normal weight. Although the team at Wakefield have performed over 1000 gastric bypasses, there is still a small but very real risk of life-threatening complications, or even death, from post-operative complications. Providing the surgery is performed by surgeons experienced with the technique, this risk should be no more than 1 percent. We have had two patient deaths in 1050 patients.
The risk of serious complications leading to prolonged hospital stay, need for further surgery, or delayed convalescence is about 5 percent. This risk must be balanced alongside the benefits of the surgery.
Other general risks of surgery
Other problems which may arise include infection of the wound or failure of the wound to heal properly, chest infection, the development of clots in the legs or to the lungs. Special measures are taken at the time of surgery and in the few days after surgery to avoid these problems but in spite of these measures some complications may occur in up to 10 percent of patients. Most of these are unlikely to be serious but may delay full recovery.
The principal disadvantage of all gastric bypass procedures is the lifelong restriction to your eating patterns.
After surgery, approximately two-thirds of people will be able to eat most types of food providing they eat slowly and carefully. The remaining third will have difficulty with eating which may result in regular vomiting or regurgitation of some food and a limitation in food that can be eaten.
This limitation may vary from being minor to quite major, with complete inability to manage foods like meat, fruit and bread. A small number of people will only be able to manage soft puree type foods. There is no way of predicting the eventual eating pattern ahead of time. Further surgical treatment may be necessary for those who have extreme difficulty with eating.
It is important you recognise gastric bypass surgery is a decision for life and that you will need support from family, friends and your GP.
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