In the United States, we have an obesity rate of about 30% and that translates to about 20 million Americans who would potentially qualify to have weight loss surgery. Unfortunately, we only perform about 350,000 operations a year in this country, which means that there is a huge population of patients out there that could benefit from weight loss surgery and aren't taking advantage of it.
People often wonder: "how much weight am I going to lose?" It really depends on multiple factors: the first of which would be: "which operation did you have?" With the lap band, the weight loss that a patient can experience afterwards is quite variable. On average, we somewhere around 45% excess body weight loss, which means 45% of however much a patient weighs is what what they will lose. So if an individual weighs 100 pounds over their ideal body weight, they would typically lose about 45 pounds with a lap band. With a sleeve gastrectomy, we see about 60% excess body weight loss, meaning an individual that is 100 pounds overweight will lose about 60 pounds. With the gastric bypass we typically see about 65-70% excess body weight loss.
Patients often hear that having weight loss surgery will cause them to lose about 100 pounds and that's really not true. That's a generic number that's often thrown around. The reality is: each one of these operations results in a specific amount of weight loss and that weight loss really is a percentage of how much overweight that patient is. So if a patient is 100 pounds overweight, we might expect them to lose anywhere from 60-70% (or 60 to 70 pounds) for a given operation. The weight loss that a patient experiences after surgery usually peaks at somewhere about a year to a year and a half after surgery. There are some patients that might lose the weight very rapidly and lose all their weight in 6 months, whereas other patients may take an entire year and a half to lose all over their weight. In the end, it really doesn't matter how quickly you lose the weight, it's just important that ultimately you lose the amount of weight that we expect to lose.
The benefits of weight loss surgery include being able to get rid of your health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It also allows you to do things that you never thought were possible like running in the park with your children or going on rides at an amusement park. Basically - weight loss surgery can change your life.
Weight loss surgery is probably the healthiest thing that a morbidly obese individual can do for themselves. Most patients that are morbidly obese have some sort of comorbidity or medical problem - whether it's diabetes or high cholesterol or hypertension. In general, when an individual has weight loss surgery, most of these medical problems get better or they completely disappear and in the process the patient becomes healthier.
The basic philosophy of weight loss surgery (and especially our philosophy on weight loss surgery) is that surgery is really just a tool to help you lose weight. It is not the answer. It's not the magic pill. It's not going to make you lose weight if you don't participate and do your part in this process. The idea behind surgery is that we make your stomach smaller so that you eat less food and you're not nearly as hungry anymore. After that it's the patient's job to make the right food choices and eat healthy food and all sorts of exercise and without those two other components that the patient has to participate in, that patient won't be successful when it comes to weight loss surgery. It is just a piece of the puzzle, but patients definitely have to participate in what we call a lifestyle change and they have to maintain this lifestyle change for the rest of their life.
The latest research on weight loss surgery is centered around diabetes and the ability of a weight loss operation to cure an individual with type 2 diabetes. A statement was recently released by the American Diabetes Association that strongly supported weight loss surgery as the primary source of cure for an individual with type 2 diabetes. For instance, if somebody has fairly significant type 2 diabetes, we may suggest the gastric bypass to them. Why? Because the gastric bypass is the most effective operation in treating type 2 diabetes.
There are risk factors for having weight loss surgery and these risk factors can increase your complication rate. However, when it comes to weight loss surgery, it's often the sickest patient that stands to benefit the most. So take a patient, for instance, that has type 2 diabetes and they have high blood pressure and high cholesterol and heart disease. You might typically think, "well, gee, that's the type of person that I really don't want to operate on." However, that type of patient is really the one who needs it the most. We recognize that they have those risk factors, but if the patient is healthy enough and they undergo a rigorous series of tests to make sure that they are healthy enough, then we will go ahead and perform the operation. The great thing is that many of these medical problems will either improve or completely resolve after the patient does have weight loss surgery.
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