If you are thinking about bariatric surgery and are having doubts about whether it is right for you, you’re not alone. Wondering if bariatric surgery is right for you is a very common concern. Bariatric surgery is a life-changing procedure, and making that decision requires research, a good amount of reflection, and discussion with your doctor.
However, you also should take a look at the science and know that gastric bypass surgery can be an effective treatment for the lifelong condition of morbid obesity. As with any surgery, bariatric surgery may present risks. It’s important to learn about these risks and discuss them with your bariatric surgeon.
If traditional weight loss methods have not worked, gastric bypass surgery may be the right answer for you. And with its effectiveness in resolving or improving co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes, it may improve your quality of life.
In this section, you’ll learn about concerns and fears that most everyone has had at one point or another during the bariatric surgery decision-making process. By browsing these pages and hearing patients describe their experiences in their own words, you’ll find that you’re not alone.
Read more about common concerns patients have about Bariatric Surgery
Gastric bypass surgery reshapes your stomach and changes the digestive process of your body for life. It is major surgery, performed while the patient is under general anesthesia.
For many people, the idea of “rebuilding” their stomach sounds good—a small stomach that can help you control how much you eat sounds like a great tool.
For other people, the idea of surgery and anesthesia can provoke anxiety. The potential for complications also can be a little frightening.
This is perfectly normal. Before letting these fears prevent you from having this surgery, you may want to examine them. In this section, you’ll learn strategies for working through these fears and hear from patients who have had gastric bypass surgery as they describe their own ways of working through these challenges.
The fear of surgery is not irrational or abnormal; in fact, it’s very common. Bariatric surgery reroutes the digestive system and permanently alters the stomach—all while the patient is under general anesthesia.
If the idea of surgery or anesthesia scares you, counter the fear by finding out more. Research the surgeon or surgeons who will be performing the operation. If anesthesia is an issue, you also can research the anesthesiologist. You may be reassured if you find out that your surgeon has performed hundreds or thousands of surgeries.
If you are still afraid of surgery, but would otherwise like to have it, you may want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Your physician can recommend a bariatric program and once there, you can attend support groups and speak with a psychologist. The psychologist is there to help you work through your fears and concerns.
Fear of short- or long-term complications is valid. As with any surgery, complications may occur.
If you are concerned about short- or long-term complications, you can talk about them with your surgeon. Every surgery has risks, and your surgeon should discuss the benefits and risks of bariatric surgery with you.
For many people who have spent years suffering from morbid obesity, gastric bypass surgery sounds like a lifesaver. However, it’s important to be prepared for all aspects of the treatment. Gastric bypass surgery permanently changes your body. Your surgeon will reduce your stomach to a very small pouch. The small intestine is then rerouted, so the digestive process allows fewer calories and nutrients to be absorbed by the body. The combination of restrictive and malabsorptive mechanisms allows for significant weight loss.
After gastric bypass surgery, the amount of food that you eat is less than what you could eat presurgery. At the same time, a feeling of satisfaction, or satiety, is achieved with these small quantities of food. If you eat a large meal or foods high in fat and/or sugar, you very likely will have a painful bout of dumping syndrome, which is an uncomfortable feeling of nausea, lightheadedness, upset stomach, and diarrhea associated with ingestion of sweets, high-calorie liquids, or dairy products. This physical reaction provides a deterrent to large meals and unhealthy foods.
Because your stomach will be a fraction of its original size and your digestive process will be changed, you will have the opportunity to lose excess weight. Dangerous co-morbidities, such as type 2 diabetes, GERD, and sleep apnea, are often resolved or improved. As you recover, you may find that clothes that fit a week ago or even a few days earlier suddenly are too large. You also may find that a walk in the park no longer leaves you breathless, that you do remember how to ride a bike, and that you can keep up with your kids.
A typical comprehensive bariatric program will consist of a combination of the following healthcare professionals: a program coordinator, psychologist, dietician, exercise physiologist, and other healthcare professionals to help with your case. Each expert is dedicated to providing support for gastric bypass patients both before and after surgery.
Many patients report that during the first 12 to 18 months following surgery, they feel highly motivated and energized. During this time, they are making substantial lifestyle changes such as eating new foods and smaller portions, taking vitamins daily, and exercising regularly. Many of these changes will be discussed before surgery and should come as no surprise following surgery.
While these changes are healthy, they may be overwhelming for some patients. This is where your bariatric program support team can guide you. Each expert can provide advice and insight that will educate you and help you make healthy choices.
Many successful gastric bypass surgery patients say that their support network helped them immensely in maintaining their new healthy lifestyle changes. From family and friends to bariatric program support groups, there is a wealth of options available for people interested in gastric bypass surgery.
The first step in getting support is talking to your family and friends about gastric bypass surgery and your interest in it. You might find that they are completely supportive. While this is always ideal, you might find that some family members and friends are against your decision. Often, this is because your loved ones are concerned about you or have preconceived notions about gastric bypass surgery. Explaining the advantages, benefits, and risks of gastric bypass surgery may open their minds to its importance.
If you find that they are unsupportive, it doesn’t mean you are alone. Many people have had gastric bypass surgery and have been very successful with the care they received from the healthcare professionals on their bariatric program team. Bariatric programs usually include a support group for gastric bypass surgery patients both pre- and postsurgery.
Support groups are an excellent resource. You’ll find people who share your goals of health and wellness. A support group is a forum for celebrating successes, such as the improvement or resolution of co-morbidities. The support group is devoted to people who have common experiences, who can share their feelings in a safe environment, and develop relationships that can contribute to improved physical and emotional health.
If you are thinking about gastric bypass surgery, and you want to learn more about the patient’s perspective or help reluctant family and friends understand, attending a support group meeting can be invaluable.
It’s important to realize that for many people, not just patients, surgery can be frightening. For gastric bypass surgery patients, family and friends may not be supportive in the beginning because, as with all surgical procedures, they are concerned about possible risks and complications.
If you find that your family and friends are not supportive, providing information and education may calm many of their fears. In addition to support groups, many bariatric surgery programs provide information sessions and encourage the attendance of prospective patients, their family, and their friends. Seeing and hearing the successes of others can help people understand the importance of gastric bypass surgery.
Unfortunately, some gastric bypass patients find that their family and friends do not support their decision. It can be very disappointing, but it doesn’t have to alter the patient’s decision to have gastric bypass surgery.
Bariatric surgery programs often include two components that can help a patient: a psychologist and support groups. A psychologist can provide tips and techniques for dealing with unsupportive people and listens to your frustrations without judgment.
Support groups are a wonderful place to meet people and get perspective on bariatric surgery. You’ll hear about successes, frustrations, plateaus, and special moments, and have a chance to share your own experiences.
Gastric bypass surgery is a major procedure, and recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Therefore, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s postoperative recovery instructions.
Bariatric Surgery Postoperative Pain and Discomfort
Many people think that bariatric surgery will be followed by a long and painful recovery period. However, postsurgery patients usually do not have that experience. In fact, many patients who were interviewed spoke of discomfort and soreness rather than pain. Recovery does, however, vary from patient to patient. You may want to speak with your surgeon if you are very concerned about postoperative pain.
Being out of Commission
As with any major surgery, there will be a recovery period when you’ll have to take it easy. Remember that this is a necessary step, and the better care you take during recovery, the more likely and quickly you’ll return to normal activity. Recovery time varies from patient to patient and also is based on the type of surgery you have.
You can expect to be up and moving within hours of your gastric bypass surgery. While you may move slowly at first, many patients have found that each day often brings improvements. Many patients return to normal activities, such as driving, cooking, and caring for children, three to six weeks after surgery.
Whether it’s family, friends, or coworkers, build a support network for all aspects of your life. Those supporting you are dedicated to helping you achieve better health and wellness. Show your appreciation by accepting their help and allowing yourself to heal.
The recovery period varies among patients and is dependent on many different factors. For example, many patients choose to have laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, gastric bypass surgery because the recovery period generally is shorter than with open surgery. In some patients, the laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, approach to surgery cannot be used. The decision to perform the open procedure is a judgment made by your surgeon either before or during the actual operation, and is based on patient safety.
Other factors for recovery time include pain tolerance, preoperative health, preoperative BMI, any complications that may occur, and even the patient’s level of compliance to the surgeon’s recovery instructions.