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Pros and Cons of Surgery for Weight Loss

Weight loss surgery: Is it a miracle cure or a waste of money? With hundreds of thousands of procedures performed each year, chances are good that you know someone who has had weight loss surgery.

Maybe you're even considering it for yourself.

Years of unsuccessful diets can drive people to desperate measures, including gastric bypass surgery. And many patients do lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time.

This is both good and bad, as rapid weight loss can lead to a new set of problems. Let's weigh the pros and cons of bariatric surgery.

The Pros

Fast Weight Loss

Bariatric surgery patients start losing weight immediately following surgery, and typically keep losing weight for 18 months to two years afterward. The weight comes off very quickly, especially at first.

While this leads to other complications specific to rapid weight loss, there is no doubt that losing so much weight is very beneficial to the patient's overall health.

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Relief from Weight-Related Illness

It doesn't take very long for bariatric patients to reach a healthier weight. Consequently, many patients quickly overcome symptoms of their prior obesity, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

Variety of Treatments Available

Stomach stapling and gastric bypass are still popular surgeries for morbidly obese individuals, but new, less invasive techniques have emerged.

The Lap Band is a minimally invasive surgery that places an adjustable band around the stomach, preventing it from holding too much food. The band can be tightened or loosened during a trip to the doctor's office.

Health Insurance Coverage

Many insurance plans will cover the cost of bariatric surgery. Most have stringent requirements, though.

Be prepared to get your doctor's approval, provide documentation of your weight problem and the steps you've already taken to correct it. If you can prove that you've tried many approaches and they haven't worked, you're more likely to have your insurance foot the bill.

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Cons

It's Dangerous

While a recent study suggests that bariatric surgery has a mortality rate of 1 in 7,000 patients, those findings have been called into question.

The study was not randomized, meaning the doctors who conducted it were able to pick and choose which patients to study. Also, the "1 in 7,000" statistic was arrived at by studying both gastric bypass patients and patients who had the much less dangerous Lap Band procedure.

A 2006 examination of insurance claims following bariatric surgery revealed that 40% of patients suffered complications within six months of surgery. Surgeons have gone on record stating the actual mortality rate for gastric bypass is closer to 1 in 1,000.

It Doesn't Always Work

Some patients are deeply discouraged when they don't attain the dramatic weight loss associated with bariatric surgery. You can go online to read true stories of Lap Band failures.

There are also communities devoted to people who have had unsuccessful gastric bypass operations. Sadly, some people come away from their experience heavier than ever.

It's a Temporary Fix

After two years post-surgery, most patients begin to gradually regain the weight they lost.

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The problem is that many patients view bariatric surgery as an easy fix, so they don't adopt healthy lifestyle changes that will keep the weight off permanently. For weight loss surgery to be successful, it needs to be part of a total diet and fitness overhaul.

It Causes Other Problems

Bariatric patients experience several side effects related to their fast weight loss. It's easy to become malnourished when your stomach can only hold 4 ounces of food at a time.

Vomiting and diarrhea are common, so patients must always guard against dehydration. There is also an increased risk of gallstones following weight loss surgery.

Cosmetic Surgery Might be Necessary

Loose skin from losing weight is one common side effect of fast, massive weight loss. It can usually be corrected with cosmetic surgery, if the patient is healthy enough to undergo such a procedure.

While appearance may not be a concern, some patients end up with so much loose skin that their mobility is compromised, making it a quality of life issue.

Ultimately, the choice to have weight loss surgery is a choice that must be made by you and your doctor. Schedule a consultation with your physician to learn more about the dangers and benefits of bariatric surgery.

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