As with any major procedure, bariatric surgery poses potential health risks, both in the short term and long term.
Risks associated with the surgical procedure can include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Lung or breathing problems
- Leaks in your gastrointestinal system
- Death (rare)
Longer term risks and complications of weight-loss surgery vary depending on the type of surgery. They can include:
- Bowel obstruction
- Dumping syndrome, which leads to diarrhea, flushing, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Acid reflux
- The need for a second, or revision, surgery or procedure
- Death (rare)
How you prepare
If you qualify for bariatric surgery, your health care team gives you instructions on how to prepare for your specific type of surgery. You may need to have various lab tests and exams before surgery. You may have restrictions on eating and drinking and which medications you can take. You may be required to start a physical activity program and to stop any tobacco use.
You may also need to prepare by planning ahead for your recovery after surgery. For instance, arrange for help at home if you think you’ll need it.
What you can expect
Bariatric surgery is done in the hospital using general anesthesia. This means you’re unconscious during the procedure.
The specifics of your surgery depend on your individual situation, the type of weight-loss surgery you have, and the hospital’s or doctor’s practices. Some weight-loss surgeries are done with traditional large, or open, incisions in your abdomen.
Today, most types of bariatric surgery are performed laparoscopically. A laparoscope is a small, tubular instrument with a camera attached. The laparoscope is inserted through small incisions in the abdomen. The tiny camera on the tip of the laparoscope allows the surgeon to see and operate inside your abdomen without making the traditional large incisions. Laparoscopic surgery can make your recovery faster and shorter, but it’s not suitable for everyone.
Surgery usually takes several hours. After surgery, you awaken in a recovery room, where medical staff monitors you for any complications. Depending on your procedure, you may need to stay a few days in the hospital.
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