Gastric Sleeve Facts

Gastric sleeve surgery or vertical sleeve gastrectomy has been the fastest growing bariatric (weight loss) procedure in the United States.  This procedure removes 80% of the stomach. Gastric sleeve surgery  produces fast weight loss and has a relatively low complication rate.

Gastric sleeve surgery will diminish hunger in some individuals, but not all.  In addition, the patient will feel full sooner as the stomach is now smaller.  This procedure does not require rerouting of the intestines, and there is no dumping syndrome like there is with other bariatric procedures.  Unlike the lap band, there are not any adjustment procedures.  In addition, the majority of the weight is lost in the first year after the procedure compared to the lap band which takes three years.  Most patients will reach a plateau in weight loss after the first year.  Exercise and appropriate diet, however, can help with continued weight loss.  But the stomach can stretch over time due to over eating.

In contrast, the lap band requires diet and lifestyle changes which the gastric sleeve does not.  This explains why some patients do not lose weight with the lap band.

You will receive a preoperative evaluation prior to your surgery.  This includes a complete blood panel, and a chemistry panel. You will, most likely, also get an EKG, chest X-ray, and possibly a sleep study to check for sleep apnea.  Your provider will place you on a special two week diet prior to the surgery.  It is highly recommended that you stop using tobacco products.  And try to lose as much weight as possible on your own.  The larger patients have a higher surgery complication rate than the smaller patients.

The actual procedure takes about one to two hours.  It is done through the laparoscope which is a long tube with two lens and a light at the end which allows your surgeon to look inside your abdomen.  Anywhere from one to five small incisions will be made on the abdomen.  This leaves a “sleeve” that connects your esophagus to the intestines.  This procedure can be done on anyone from children to senior citizens.

Many of the medical problems associated with obesity are helped with this procedure.  Type II diabetes mellitus, hypertension, sleep apnea, and arthritis are a few of these conditions.

You will remain in the hospital for about two days.  Recovery at home will be about two weeks.  There will be a slow transition from a liquid diet to solid foods.  Slowly start to exercise.  There may be some nausea and abdominal discomfort, but these issues should resolve over time.

Remember that the gastric sleeve surgery is a way to start your weight loss, but proper diet and exercise will be required over time to maintain lasting results.  You will be required to take life long vitamin and mineral supplements.

Keep in mind, however, that there are risks with any surgical procedure.  These include hemorrhage, infection, injury to another organ system and death.  There can also be leaks from the stomach staple line which will require further surgery.  Strictures of the stomach site can also occur.

Long term side effects include gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or heart burn, gallstone formation, sagging skin, gaining the weight again, vitamin and mineral deficiency, and intolerance to certain foods.

This is a brief overview of gastric sleeve surgery.  Consult your bariatric surgeon for more details.  This surgery is not for everyone and you have to be a certain BMI to qualify for the surgery.

Wishing you success in your weight loss and management.  Pablo.

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