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November 21, 2019

Here's what to expect before and after weight-loss surgery

Adult Health Bariatric Surgery
Before and After Bariatric Surgery Weight Loss Vidal Balielo Jr./

There are various forms of weight-loss surgery. Combined with diet loss and exercise, bariatric surgery can help the right candidates better control their weight.

If you struggle with obesity-related health conditions, your doctor may have mentioned weight-loss surgery as a way to improve your health and quality of life. 

But what is it exactly and what can you expect before and after the procedure?

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There are different types of weight-loss surgeries available, including the roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy and gastric banding. The appropriate surgery, combined with changes in diet and exercise, can lead to better health outcomes for the right candidate.


Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is a laparoscopic surgery to reduce the size of your stomach so you are only able to eat smaller quantities of food, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The surgeon makes a small incision in the abdomen and then staples off the upper section of the stomach, creating a little pouch that is then attached to the Roux Limb section of the small intestine. When you eat, the food goes into the pouch and then into the small intestine, bypassing most of the stomach and parts of the small intestine.

The vertical sleeve gastrectomy is also performed laparoscopically. With this procedure, 80% of your stomach is removed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Not only will you have to eat less, but your body will also start to go through hormonal changes to aid in the weight-loss process.

Gastric banding (LAP-Band) is when an inflatable silicone device is placed around the top part of the stomach, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This forms a small pouch that controls and limits food consumption. A small outlet slows the emptying process into the stomach, enabling you to feel fuller more quickly.   


Prior to surgery, you most likely will need to undergo a pre-approval process with your health insurance. Nutrition counseling, and both a physical and psychological evaluation are often a part of this process. 

In the months or weeks before surgery, you likely will be given eating and drinking restrictions as well as exercise guidelines, and you may be asked to attend lifestyle counseling, according to the Mayo Clinic

Many surgeons also will require you to lose some initial weight before they will operate. Because of all this, it could take up to a year before your procedure is scheduled. This is all done for your health and safety because weight-loss surgery requires making permanent lifestyle changes.


Expect rapid weight loss to start soon after the surgery, but it can take almost two years for your weight to finally stabilize. Nutritional supplements will be necessary and you will find yourself feeling full after just a couple of tablespoons of food. 

Talk to your registered dietitian about how to avoid the "dumping syndrome," which refers to the gastric distress (cramping, diarrhea) you experience when you indulge in certain foods or beverages.

Possible complications from the surgery include leakage, bowel obstruction, ulcers, blood clots, gallstones, and vomiting and abdominal pain.

The most important thing to remember is that weight-loss surgery is permanent and requires hard work and a lifelong commitment. Want to know more? Penn Medicine offers weight-loss surgery information sessions.

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