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How Effective Is Weight Loss Surgery?

Apr 5, 2008
For severely overweight individuals that have failed to see results from diet and exercise alone, weight-loss surgery has become the safest and most effective means of achieving significant weight loss. In fact, studies have shown that with diet and exercise alone, nearly 95% of obese patients will gain all the lost weight back within 5 years. On the other hand, long-term success rates for weight-loss surgery - including the LAP-BAND procedure - are remarkably high, allowing patients to maintain a loss of between 50-70% of their excess body weight. Though there are many factors that can impact an individual patient's weight-loss success, weight-loss surgery is simply the most effective long-term weight loss and healthy lifestyle solution for severely obese patients.

Studies show that most patients that undergo weight-loss surgery will lose between 50-70% of their excess body weight within the first three years following their procedure. Those that undergo gastric bypass surgery will lose excess body weight more rapidly in the first 12 months than those that choose LAP-BAND surgery. However, gastric bypass patients typically experience a greater number of complications and side effects than LAP-BAND patients, as the LAP-BAND procedure allows for more gradual and natural long-term weight loss.

From a clinical perspective, a weight-loss surgery is considered successful when the patient loses at least 50% of their excess body weight and keeps the weight off for at least five years. While important lifestyle changes need to be made to ensure that the weight loss is maintained in the long term, studies have shown that most weight loss surgery patients are able to maintain a 50-60% loss of excess body weight 10 years after the surgical procedure. However, it is important to note that a weight loss of just 10% of total body weight can begin to have positive health effects in resolution of obesity-related condition like asthma, gastric reflux (GERD), and diabetes. As weight-loss surgery is usually performed on patients that are at least 75-100 pounds overweight or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 35 with a health condition, overall weight loss can range anywhere from 40 pounds to over 100 pounds. But the patient is really the leader behind achieving these results.

While patients will certainly look and feel better after weight-loss surgery, there are also numerous health benefits associated with successful weight loss. In most cases, health conditions that develop as a result of excessive body weight or are worsened by obesity can be improved upon or, in some cases, remedied by weight-loss surgery.

But there are other ways to measuring success with weight-loss surgery, like the LAP-BAND System. For instance, many weight loss surgery patients take great pride in being able to perform certain activities that may not have been possible for a number of years, like crossing their legs, bending over to tie a show, walking up stairs without being easily winded or sitting comfortably in an airplane seat.

While most patients that undergo weight-loss surgery experience incredibly positive results, there are many factors that can impact the overall success of an individual patient's procedure and follow-up treatment. Here are some important factors to consider as you try to determine whether weight loss surgery is right for you.

Pre-surgery Weight

Generally speaking, the higher a patient's pre-surgery weight or BMI, the more excess weight the patient can lose after surgery. However, recipients of weight-loss surgery with less excess body weight will eventually come closer to their ideal weight when committed to long-term diet and exercise. Also, resolution or improvement in obesity-related diseases can occur with even moderate amounts of weight. Often many diseases can become closer to cured than improved with earlier intervention at a lower weight.

Overall Health

While pre-existing health conditions can impact the overall success of weight-loss surgery (for instance, patients with type 2 Diabetes typically lose less excess body weight after surgery), studies have shown that many ailments linked to obesity are either improved upon or fall into remission after a successful procedure. For instance, a 2000 study performed on 500 weight loss surgery patients showed that nearly 96% of health conditions associated with obesity - such as high blood pressure, depression, sleep apnea, back pain and diabetes - improved greatly following loss of excess weight and long-term commitment to diet and exercise.

Surgical Procedure

As there are potential risks and complications associated with any surgical procedure, potential patients should always seek to have their weight-loss surgery performed by a trusted medical staff. Prospective patients should inquire about their surgeon's success rates with weight-loss surgery and listen to the experiences of former patients. Additionally, a patient's weight-loss success may also be impacted by the quality of post-surgery care and counseling provided by their bariatric outpatient facility.

Diet and Exercise

As diet and exercise are two of the most important factors in any weight loss plan, patients with the physical ability to exercise after weight-loss surgery have increased chances of meeting their goals. To maintain the weight loss achieved by surgery, both exercise and healthy eating habits must become integral parts of a patient's lifestyle.

Commitment

The ability to remain committed to suggested dietary guidelines, exercise regimens and any follow-up care recommended by the bariatric outpatient facility is important for both short-term weight loss and long-term weight management.

Motivation

Patients that are motivated to lose weight and willing to follow through with diet and exercise prior to receiving weight loss surgery may experience greater levels of success immediately following the procedure and in the long term. Most people did not find themselves severely obese overnight. It took years to reach that weight and therefore patients should be patient with the weight-loss process, which will also not occur overnight. Successful patients find small victories along the way to celebrate and stay motivated.

Support

As weight-loss surgery will require some time away from everyday activities, it is important to have the support of family, friends and coworkers before undergoing any surgical procedure. Furthermore, as the ongoing weight-loss process following bariatric surgery may require a certain level of emotional support, prospective patients may want to establish a support network - including friends and family members that can join in on exercise and healthy eating.

Considering that significant weight loss can not only remedy many health concerns, but also improve an individual's quality of life, the potential benefits of weight-loss surgery are plentiful. For severely overweight individuals that are unable to lose weight via diet and exercise alone, weight-loss surgery is the most effective method of losing weight - and keeping the weight off.
About the Author
Carole S. Guinane, a Chief Clinical Officer writes articles about obesity and weight loss for New Hope Today.
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