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Weight loss surgery FAQs

Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is a treatment for people who are dangerously obese and carrying excessive amounts of body fat.

This treatment is a major operation, and like any procedure, carries risks. The NHS makes this treatment available when other treatments for obesity haven’t worked and the excess weight is life threatening.

How does weight loss surgery work, and could it help you? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about weight loss surgery.

Should I consider having weight loss surgery?

This type of surgery is not suitable for everyone. In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended weight loss surgery as an NHS treatment option for obese patients who:

  • Have a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI of 35 and above and also have a serious health condition that could be improved if they lost weight, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, and
  • Have tried all the appropriate non-surgical methods, such as diet and exercise, but have failed to achieve or maintain a clinically beneficial level of weight loss for at least six months, and
  • Agree to commit to the need for long-term follow-up treatment after surgery at a specialised obesity service, and
  • Are fit and healthy enough to undergo an anaesthetic and surgery, or
  • Have a BMI of more than 50 when weight loss surgery may be considered as a first-line treatment option, if appropriate

How will weight loss surgery help me lose weight?

There are two main types of weight loss surgery currently performed in the UK - restrictive procedures and combined restrictive and malabsorptive procedures. Each helps with weight loss in different ways.

  • Restrictive procedures - like laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding - work by physically restricting the stomach's size, limiting the amount of solid food you can eat. Before the operation, a normal stomach can hold about one and a half litres of food. After surgery the stomach may at first hold 30 millilitres - although that may later stretch to 60 to 90 millilitres You eat less when your stomach is smaller.
  • Combined restrictive and malabsorptive procedures like a gastric bypas - most commonly a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass - work by restricting food intake and changing the way your digestive system absorbs food. This type of weight loss surgery is more complicated. The surgeon restricts the size of the stomach and also bypasses parts of your digestive tract, creating a shortcut for the food to be digested. This can mean that fewer calories get absorbed into the body.
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