Features January 2015 Issue

Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass Surgery Considered Safe Option

Cleveland Clinic researchers suggest that this type of weight-loss surgery for people with type 2 diabetes is as safe as many common operations.

Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is an increasingly popular weight loss procedure for obese individuals with type 2 diabetes or who are at risk for diabetes. The operation was once viewed as risky, but a recent Cleveland Clinic study suggests that it’s as safe as an appendectomy or gallbladder surgery. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

“The perception has been that gastric bypass is a very risky operation, but the reality is that it is as safe, if not safer, than many of the most commonly performed surgeries in America,” says study co-author Ali Aminian, MD, clinical scholar of Advanced Metabolic and Diabetes Surgery at Cleveland Clinic. “The risk-to-benefit ratio of gastric bypass for diabetes and obesity is very favorable. There’s significant weight loss, diabetes improvement or remission, and a relatively low complication and mortality rate.”

He adds that early intervention with laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery may eliminate the need for some higher-risk procedures to treat cardiovascular problems later.

Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which in turn can lead to serious complications for heart patients. Gastric bypass is usually done to treat patients who have been unsuccessful with other weight-loss efforts.

Gastric bypass basics
Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is actually a two-part operation. The first is to use staples to divide the stomach into a smaller upper “pouch” and a lower section. The second part is to attach part of the small intestine directly to the pouch, creating a bypass. With a smaller stomach, you’ll feel full on less food. Because food will be moving from the pouch directly into the intestines, you’ll absorb fewer calories.

This particular operation is done with a laparoscope, a thin tool affixed with a tiny video camera. The laparoscope is inserted into the body through a small incision, and images of the stomach and intestines are displayed on a video monitor in the operating room. Several other small incisions are also made for specially designed surgical tools to perform the actual procedure. Laparoscopic surgery is seen as preferable to open surgery because the scars are smaller, healing is faster, and there is a lower risk of a hernia or infection.

Gastric bypass isn’t for everyone, and it requires major lifestyle changes afterwards to maintain the weight loss. But it is an option for many people, even some older adults. If you’re struggling with obesity, talk with your doctor about whether you might be a good candidate for this or other bariatric procedures.

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