Is Weight Loss Surgery for You?

Morbid obesity is a chronic condition that is sometimes difficult to treat through traditional methods of diet and exercise alone. Morbid obesity is defined as:

  • Body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 or weighing 100 pounds more than ideal body weight.
  • A BMI between 35 – 39.9 and a serious obesity-related health problem such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or severe sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep)

Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)

Gastric bypass is a medical procedure that is a treatment option for people who are affected by morbid obesity. The procedure facilitates weight loss by restricting food intake and, in some operations, interrupting the digestive process. An appropriate candidate for weight-loss surgery is one who suffers from morbid obesity and is willing to make a continued commitment to healthy eating behaviors and regular physical activity.

To help decide if weight-loss surgery is for you, ask yourself:

  • Are you determined to lose weight and improve your health?
  • Are you well-informed about the surgical procedure and the effects of treatment?
  • Are you aware of the potential for serious complications?
  • Are you aware of the adjustments you will need to make after the operation, i.e. side effects of the operation, including the need to chew food well and the inability to eat large meals?
  • Are you prepared and committed to the lifelong medical follow-up and vitamin/mineral supplementation?

There are many factors to consider when making the decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery. Be sure to consult your medical team to discuss your options.

Medical Terms

There are several medical terms that are used when talking about gastric bypass procedures and weight loss surgeries. Here is a list of the most common terms:

  • "Open" – The open approach procedure involves a long incision that open the abdomen, which provides the surgeon access.
  • "Laparoscopic" – In Laparoscopic surgery, a small video camera is inserted into the abdomen allowing the surgeon to conduct and view the process on a video monitor. Both camera and surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions made in the abdominal wall.
  • "Malabsorptive" – Malabsorptive procedures alter digestion, thus causing the food to be poorly digested and incompletely absorbed.
  • "Restrictive" – Restrictive procedures decrease food intake by creating a small upper stomach pouch to limit food intake.

Excerpted and adapted from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Weight-Control Information Network.

Reviewed by Paige Reddan, MS., RD., LN., CDE. 4/14

Last Modified Date: July 07, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.
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