Bariatric surgery (weight-loss surgery) includes a variety of procedures performed on people who are obese. Weight loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with an implanted medical device (gastric banding) or through removal of a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy or biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch) or by resecting and re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery).
Long-term studies show the procedures cause significant long-term loss of weight, recovery from diabetes, improvement in cardiovascular risk factors, and a reduction in mortality of 23% from 40%.However, a study in Veterans Affairs (VA) patients has found no survival benefit associated with bariatric surgery among older, severely obese people when compared with usual care, at least out to seven years.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends bariatric surgery for obese people with a body mass index (BMI)of at least 40, and for people with BMI 35 and serious coexisting medical conditions such as diabetes. However, research is emerging that suggests bariatric surgery could be appropriate for those with a BMI of 35 to 40 with no comorbidities or a BMI of 30 to 35 with significant comorbidities.
A medical guideline by the American College of Physicians concluded:
Classification of surgical procedures
Procedures can be grouped in three main categories: Standard of care in the United States and most of the industrialized world in 2009 is for laparoscopic as opposed to open procedures. Future trends are attempting to achieve similar or better results via endoscopic procedures.
Predominantly malabsorptive procedures
Predominantly malabsorptive procedures, although they also reduce stomach size, these operations are based mainly on creating malabsorption.
This complex operation is termed biliopancreatic diversion (BPD) or the Scopinaro procedure. The original form of this procedure is now rarely performed because of problems with malnourishment. It has been replaced with a modification known as duodenal switch (BPD/DS). Part of the stomach is resected, creating a smaller stomach (however the patient can eat a free diet as there is no restrictive component). The distal part of the small intestine is then connected to the pouch, bypassing the duodenum and jejunum.
In around 2% of patients there is severe malabsorption and nutritional deficiency that requires restoration of the normal absorption. The malabsorptive effect of BPD is so potent that those who undergo the procedure must takevitamin and dietary minerals above and beyond that of the normal population. Without these supplements, there is risk of serious deficiency diseases such as anemia and osteoporosis.
Because gallstones are a common complication of the rapid weight loss following any type of bariatric surgery, some surgeons remove the gallbladder as a preventive measure during BPD. Others prefer to prescribe medications to reduce the risk of post-operative gallstones.
Far fewer surgeons perform BPD compared to other weight loss surgeries, in part because of the need for long-term nutritional follow-up and monitoring of BPD patients.
This procedure is no longer performed.
A trial study performed on rats involved placing a 10 cm long impermeable sleeve into the rat’s intestine to block absorption of food in the duodenum and upper jejunum. A study at Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center and Gastrointestinal Unit found that rats who had the surgery ate 30% less food and lost 20% more weight than counterpart rats, while blood glucose levels returned to normal levels in all mice who had the surgery.
A study on humans was done in Chile using the same technique  however the results were not conclusive and the device had issues with migration and slipping. A study recently done in the Netherlands found a decrease of 5.5 BMI points in 3 months with an endoluminal sleeve.
Predominantly restrictive procedures
Procedures that are solely restrictive, act to reduce oral intake by limiting gastric volume, produces early satiety, and leave the alimentary canal in continuity, minimizing the risks of metabolic complications.
Vertical banded gastroplasty
In the vertical banded gastroplasty, also called the Mason procedure or stomach stapling, a part of the stomach is permanently stapled to create a smaller pre-stomach pouch, which serves as the new stomach.
Adjustable gastric band
The restriction of the stomach also can be created using a silicone band, which can be adjusted by addition or removal of saline through a port placed just under the skin. This operation can be performed laparoscopically, and is commonly referred to as a “lap band“. Weight loss is predominantly due to the restriction of nutrient intake that is created by the small gastric pouch and the narrow outlet. It is considered one of the safest procedures performed today with a mortality rate of 0.05%.
Sleeve gastrectomy, or gastric sleeve, is a surgical weight-loss procedure in which the stomach is reduced to about 15% of its original size, by surgical removal of a large portion of the stomach, following the major curve. The open edges are then attached together (typically with surgical staples, sutures, or both) to leave the stomach shaped more like a tube, or a sleeve, with a banana shape. The procedure permanently reduces the size of the stomach. The procedure is performed laparoscopically and is not reversible.
This combined approach has tremendously decreased the risk of weight loss surgery for specific groups of patients, even when the risk of the two surgeries is added. Most patients can expect to lose 30 to 50% of their excess body weight over a 6–12 month period with the sleeve gastrectomy alone. The timing of the second procedure will vary according to the degree of weight loss, typically 6 – 18 months.
Intragastric balloon involves placing a deflated balloon into the stomach, and then filling it to decrease the amount of gastric space. The balloon can be left in the stomach for a maximum of 6 months and results in an average weight loss of 5–9 BMI over half a year. While not yet approved by the FDA the intragastric balloon is approved in Australia, Canada, Mexico, India and several European and South American countries. The intragastric balloon may be used prior to another bariatric surgery in order to assist the patient to reach a weight which is suitable for surgery, further it can also be used on several occasions if necessary.
Basically, the procedure can best be understood as a version of the more popular gastric sleeve or gastrectomysurgery where a sleeve is created by suturing rather than removing stomach tissue thus preserving its natural nutrient absorption capabilities. The procedure is producing some significant results that were published in a recent study in Bariatric Times and are based on post-operative outcomes for 66 patients (44 female) who had the gastric sleeve plication procedure between January 2007 and March 2010. Mean patient age was 34, with a mean BMI of 35. Follow-up visits for the assessment of safety and weight loss were scheduled at regular intervals in the postoperative period. No major complications were reported among the 66 patients. Weight loss outcomes are comparable to gastric bypass.
The study describes gastric sleeve plication (also referred to as gastric imbrication or laparoscopic greater curvature plication) as a restrictive technique that eliminates the complications associated with adjustable gastric banding and vertical sleeve gastrectomy—it does this by creating restriction without the use of implants and without gastric resection (cutting) and staples.
Mixed procedures apply both techniques simultaneously.
Gastric bypass surgery
A common form of gastric bypass surgery is the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Here, a small stomach pouch is created with a stapler device, and connected to the distal small intestine. The upper part of the small intestine is then reattached in a Y-shaped configuration.
The gastric bypass had been the most commonly performed operation for weight loss in the United States, and approximately 140,000 gastric bypass procedures were performed in 2005, dwarfing the number of Lap-Band, duodenal switch and vertical banded gastroplasty procedures. The gastric bypass operation is considered the “gold standard” in the U.S.
A factor in the success of any bariatric surgery is strict post-surgical adherence to a healthier pattern of eating.
Sleeve gastrectomy with duodenal switch
A variation of the biliopancreatic diversion includes a duodenal switch. The part of the stomach along its greater curve is resected. The stomach is “tubulized” with a residual volume of about 150 ml. This volume reduction provides the food intake restriction component of this operation. This type of gastric resection is anatomically and functionally irreversible. The stomach is then disconnected from the duodenum and connected to the distal part of thesmall intestine. The duodenum and the upper part of the small intestine are reattached to the rest at about 75–100 cm from the colon.
Implantable gastric stimulation
This procedure where a device similar to a heart pacemaker is implanted by a surgeon, with the electrical leads stimulating the external surface of the stomach, is being studied in the USA. Electrical stimulation is thought to modify the activity of the enteric nervous system of the stomach, which is interpreted by the brain to give a sense of satiety, or fullness. Early evidence suggests that it is less effective than other forms of bariatric surgery.
Eating after bariatric surgery
Immediately after bariatric surgery, the patient is restricted to a clear liquid diet, which includes foods such as clear broth, diluted fruit juices or sugar-free gelatin desserts. This diet is continued until the gastrointenstinal tract has recovered somewhat from the surgery. The next stage provides a blended or pureed sugar-free diet for at least two weeks. This may consist of skimmed milk, cream of wheat, a small pat of margarine, protein drinks, cream soup, pureed fruit and mashed potatoes with gravy.
Post-surgery, overeating is curbed because exceeding the capacity of the stomach causes nausea and vomiting. Diet restrictions after recovery from surgery depend in part on the type of surgery. Many patients will need to take a dailymultivitamin pill for life to compensate for reduced absorption of essential nutrients. Because patients cannot eat a large quantity of food, physicians typically recommend a diet that is relatively high in protein and low in fats andalcohol.
It is very common, within the first month post-surgery, for a patient to undergo volume depletion and dehydration. Patients have difficulty drinking the appropriate amount of fluids as they adapt to their new gastric volume. Limitations on oral fluid intake, reduced calorie intake, and a higher incidence of vomiting and diarrhea are all factors that have a significant contribution to dehydration. In order to prevent fluid volume depletion and dehydration, a minimum of 48–64 fl oz should be consumed by repetitive small sips all day.
Effectiveness of surgery
In general, the malabsorptive procedures lead to more weight loss than the restrictive procedures however, have a higher risk profile. A meta-analysis from University of California, Los Angeles, reports the following weight loss at 36 months:
Reduced mortality and morbidity
Several recent studies report decrease in mortality and severity of medical conditions after bariatric surgery. But long term effects are not clear. In the Swedish prospective matched controlled trial, patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 34 or more for men and 38 or more for women underwent various types of bariatric surgery and were followed for an average of 11 years. Surgery patients had a 23.7% reduction in mortality (5.0% vs. 6.3% control, adjusted hazard ratio 0.71). This means 75 patients must be treated to avoid one death after 11 years (number needed to treat is 77).
In a Utah retrospective cohort study that followed patients for an average of 7 years after various types of gastric bypass, surgery patients had 0.4% mortality while control patients had 0.6% mortality. Death rates were lower in the gastric bypass patients for all diseases combined, as well as for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Deaths from accident and suicide were 58% higher in the surgery group.
A randomized, controlled trial in Australia compared laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (“lap banding”) with non-surgical therapy in 80 moderately obese adults (BMI 30–35). At 2 years, the surgically-treated group lost more weight (21.6% of initial weight vs. 5.5%) and had statistically significant improvement in blood pressure, measures of diabetic control, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Post surgical complications included 1 patient with an infected surgical site, 4 with lap band malpositioning requiring laparoscopic revision, and 1 patient with cholecystitis. In the non-surgical group, 12 patients declined or did not tolerate orlistat or diet restrictions, and 4 patients developed acute cholecystitis.
Bariatric surgery in older patients has also been a topic of debate, centered on concerns for safety in this population. One study of elderly patients undergoing laparoscopic bariatric surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, however, reported 0% conversion to open surgery, 0% 30-day mortality, 7.3% complication rate, and average hospital stay of 2.8 days. Post operative mortality from 0.1–2 %.
Given the remarkable rate of diabetes remission with bariatric surgery, there is considerable interest in offering this intervention to type 2 diabetes patients with a BMI of <35 kg/m2. Until high-quality, controlled trials are completed, appropriateness criteria (based on age, BMI, and the severity of eight obesity-related comorbidities) may be used to guide the careful selection of diabetes patients who may potentially benefit from bariatric surgery.
Laparoscopic bariatric surgery requires a hospital stay of only one or two days. Short-term complications from laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding are reported to be lower than laparoscopic Roux-en-Y surgery, and complications from laparoscopic Roux-en-Y surgery are lower than conventional (open) Roux-en-Y surgery.
Complications from weight loss surgery are frequent. A study of insurance claims of 2522 who had undergone bariatric surgery showed 21.9% complications during the initial hospital stay and a total of 40% risk of complications in the subsequent six months. This was more common in those over 40 and led to increased health care expenditure. Common problems were gastric dumping syndrome in about 20% (bloating and diarrhea after eating, necessitating small meals or medication), leaks at the surgical site (12%), incisional hernia (7%), infections (6%) and pneumonia(4%). Mortality was 0.2%. As the rate of complications appears to be reduced when the procedure is performed by an experienced surgeon, guidelines recommend that surgery be performed in dedicated or experienced units.
Metabolic bone disease manifesting as osteopenia and secondary hyperparathyroidism have been reported after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery due to reduced calcium absorption. The highest concentration of calcium transporters is in the duodenum. Since the ingested food will not pass through the duodenum after a bypass procedure, calcium levels in the blood may decrease, causing secondary hyperparathyroidism, increase in bone turnover, and a decrease in bone mass. Increased risk of fracture has also been linked to bariatric surgery.
Rapid weight loss after obesity surgery can contribute to the development of gallstones as well by increasing the lithogenicity of bile. Adverse effects on the kidneys have been studied. Hyperoxaluria that can potentially lead to oxalate nephropathy and irreversible renal failure is the most significant abnormality seen on urine chemistry studies.Rhabdomyolysis leading to acute kidney injury, and impaired renal handling of acid and base has been reported after bypass surgery.
Nutritional derangements due to deficiencies of micronutrients like iron, vitamin B12, fat soluble vitamins, thiamine, and folate are especially common after malabsorptive bariatric procedures. Seizures due to hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia have been reported. Inappropriate insulin secretion secondary to islet cell hyperplasia, called pancreatic nesidioblastosis, might explain this syndrome.