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Benefits and Risks of Weight Loss Surgery
Surgery to produce weight loss is a very serious decision. If you are thinking about surgery, you should carefully consider the following benefits and risks.

General Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery
Improvements in surgical techniques have resulted in considerable progress in safety, effectiveness and long-term integrity for promoting weight loss.
Within 30 days of surgery, 93.4% of patients from a national registry reported no complications from surgery.
Weight loss usually occurs soon after obesity surgery and continues for 18 months to two years. Most patients regain some weight after this time, however few regain it all.
After five years, patients have reported maintaining a weight loss of 60% of excess weight.
Patients will often see improvements in obesity-related medical conditions that they had before surgery such as diabetes mellitus, glucose intolerance, high cholesterol/triglycerides, hypertension and sleep apnea. In general, 60% of patients with obesity-related medical conditions are no longer on medication for these conditions three years after surgery.
Patients have reported an enhanced quality of life, improved mobility and stamina, better mood, self-esteem and interpersonal effectiveness and lessened self-consciousness.
General Risks of Weight Loss Surgery
Complications caused by the surgery may be as high as 10 percent or more.
Complications requiring a hospital stay of seven or more days were reported in 1.35% of patients from the IBSR database. Some of the complications involve the heart or liver, rupture of blood vessels in the lungs, infection surrounding the diaphragm area, leaking and bleeding of the stomach and intestines, blood clotting of veins, and blockage of the small intestine.
Complications requiring a hospital stay of less than seven days were reported in 5.28% of patients from the IBSR database. These complications include breathing difficulties, wound infections, and injury to the spleen.
10 to 20% of patients have been reported to need follow-up operations to correct complications such as abdominal hernias.
Gallstones develop in up to one-third of patients as a result of losing a large amount of weight or from losing weight quickly. The possibility of developing gallstones can be diminished in some individuals by taking medicine.
Anemia, osteoporosis and other bone disease are nutritional deficiencies that develop after the surgery due to long-term loss of absorptive function.2 Nutritional deficiencies, which occur in almost 30% of patients, can be prevented with proper attention to vitamin and mineral intake, especially vitamins B12 and D, calcium, folate and iron.
Women of childbearing age should be aware that quick weight loss and nutritional deficiencies can harm a developing fetus.
The VBG and RGB death rate is relatively low. Within 30 days of surgery, death occurred in less than a quarter of one percent (0.17%) of patients in the IBSR database. Pulmonary embolism was the most frequent cause of death.
All major surgery involves a certain level of risk, including death. Risks involved with weight loss surgery vary according to the procedure performed. Ask your surgeon to discuss these specific risks with you as part of your consultation.

Another excellent source of information on the risks of surgery is provided by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

1) www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/gastric/gastricsurgery.htm
2) Shape Up America!, American Obesity Association. Guidance for the Treatment of Adult Obesity. Bethesda, MD, revised 1998.
3) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Obesity in Adults: The Evidence Report. NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative Expert Panel on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Obesity in Adults. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998
4) American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Rationale for the Surgical Treatment of Obesity. Updated April 6, 1998.
5) National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement Online. Gastrointestinal Surgery for Severe Obesity. March 25-27, 19919(1):1-20.
6) Renquist, K, Obesity Classification. Obesity Surgery 1998;8:480.
7) Mason EE, Heeson WW, Informed consent for obesity surgery. Obes Surg 1998;8(4):419-428.
8) Kral, J.G. Surgical Treatment of Obesity. In Handbook of Obesity, ed. Bray, G.A., Bouchard, C., James, W.P.T. New York. Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1998.
9) Gastric Surgery for Severe Obesity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIH Publication No. 96-4006, April 1996.
10) FDA Talk Paper. FDA Approves Implanted Stomach Band to Treat Severe Obesity. June 5, 2001.
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