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Bariatric Surgery for Weight Loss

Learn the 4 types of bariatric surgery and how they can help some people who are severely obese.


People who struggle with obesity are far from alone — more than 1 in 3 American adults are obese. And an estimated 1 in 13 American adults are severely obese. For these individuals, bariatric surgery may be an option. This type of surgery helps people lose weight by making changes to their digestive system.

Could you be a candidate?

If you have concerns about your weight, it’s important to discuss weight loss treatment options with your doctor. These guidelines are used to determine if someone is a candidate for bariatric surgery:

  • Your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher and you have unsuccessfully tried other weight loss programs.
  • You have a BMI of 35 or higher and you have a serious health problem linked to obesity.
  • You have a BMI of 30 or higher and suffer from a serious health issue related to your weight (for gastric band)

Choosing bariatric surgery is a big decision. However if you’re a candidate, bariatric surgery may save your life.

What are common bariatric procedures?

There are different options for surgery. Most aim to either limit how much food you can eat or affect how your body digests food and absorbs nutrients. The four most common bariatric surgery options are:

  1. Adjustable gastric band (AGB). A small, inflatable band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. This creates a small pouch and reduces the amount of food you are able to intake, so you feel full sooner. This band can be adjusted after surgery.  Sometimes, the band is not as effective as expected and thus new weight loss surgery may be needed.

  2. Sleeve gastrectomy (SG). Most of the stomach is removed. The remaining portions of the stomach are joined together into a “sleeve.” The new, smaller stomach is about the size of a banana thus limiting food intake.

  3. Gastric bypass. Using staples, the stomach is divided into a smaller upper section, the “pouch,” and a lower bottom section. The pouch is where food will go. Because the pouch is small in size, food intake is restricted. Next, part of the small intestine is connected to the pouch — this is where food will now travel. Absorption is reduced because areas of the GI tract no longer are in contact with food.

  4. Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch. This more complicated surgery combines two procedures. The first one reduces the size of the stomach and is much like the gastric sleeve procedure. The second surgery, done at the same time, makes food bypass a person’s small intestine so they absorb less food.

What are the benefits?

In addition to weight loss, bariatric surgery can help improve or reduce your risk for weight-related health issues. These include:

  • Arthritis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Sleep apnea
  • Joint pain
  • Kidney disease
  • some cancers
  • Urinary stress incontinence
  • Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Abnormalities in lipids (cholesterol)

Losing weight can help make it easier to stay active. And it may improve your emotional well-being, too.

What are the risks or side effects?

Each type of bariatric surgery has risks and possible side effects. Your doctor can help you choose your best choice, based on the benefits and risks.

What can I expect after the procedure?

Your doctor may recommend daily supplements and a plan for adding healthy habits back into your life. You’ll likely have regular follow-ups with your doctor, too. Be patient with yourself, as it may take time to learn when your stomach is full. And practice good health! You can improve your chances of keeping your weight off by committing to a lifetime of healthy eating and regular exercise.

Remember, if you’re pregnant, have been physically inactive or have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe for you.

By Lucy M Casale, Contributing Writer

Weight-Control Information Network. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Bariatric surgery for severe obesity. Accessed November 20, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight and obesity: Adults obesity facts. Accessed November 20, 2017.
American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. Treat your obesity. Accessed November 20, 2017.

Last Updated: November 30, 2017