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Gastric bypass surgery

Gastric bypass surgery

The most common bariatric (weight loss) procedure performed in the United States, gastric bypass surgery has fewer serious complications than most other procedures. Additionally, if patients comply with the physician’s guidelines for dietary modifications and behavioral changes after surgery, they will often successfully achieve their weight loss goals. In short, gastric bypass surgery has come to be considered the safest way to effectively reach your weight loss goals. However, the surgery is not entirely free of risks, so it is best to consult with your doctor to determine which procedure is right for you. Please visit the Contact Us page to learn how you can find a qualified, Center of Excellence surgeon in your area.

Description of the procedure:

The medical term for the procedure is Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. During the operation, the surgeon first staples the top part of the stomach, completely separating it from the lower section. In this way, the procedure differs from vertical banded gastroplasty, which leaves a small passageway between the top and bottom sections. This top section is very small: about the size of a walnut. The substantial decrease in stomach capacity is intended to help the patient feel full sooner and for a more extended period of time.

During the second part of the operation, the surgeon creates a bypass, directing the food from the “top stomach” to the small intestine. The bypass circumvents both the bottom part of the stomach as well as the first section of the small intestine, called the duodenum. By directing food from the small pouch directly into the jejunum, or the second part of the small intestine, the body has less of an opportunity to absorb calories, which catalyzes weight loss. The lower part of the stomach is not removed; instead, it continues to produce the acids and enzymes required for digestion.

In some cases, a surgeon may choose to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass. This variation on the traditional gastric bypass procedure is guided by a tiny camera attached to a correspondingly small instrument that allows the surgeon to view the interior of the abdomen. Because the incision is significantly smaller, hospital stay and chance of infection are reduced. Your doctor can tell you if you are a candidate for this type of weight loss surgery.


  • Gastric bypass surgery, in combination with diet and exercise, can successfully help patients lose 50-60% of excess weight over a period of about two years.If these positive eating habits and exercise are incorporated into the patient’s lifestyle, the weight loss can be permanent.
  • Gastric bypass surgery has proven to eliminate or lessen the effects of certain weight-related conditions including Type II diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not only does this improve patient health in the short-term, but it also decreases the likelihood of cardiovascular events, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes-related complications later in life.
  • The loss of excess weight will make it easier to be mobile and to perform basic, every-day tasks.


  • As with any major operation, there is a risk of death. This risk changes based on the patient’s age, health status, and other factors. Your doctor will be able to give you a better idea of what the risk is for you.
  • There is the potential for poor absorption of calcium, iron, and Vitamin B12, which usually occurs in the region of the small intestine that is bypassed during the procedure (the duodenum). This may result in chronic anemia, or iron deficiency anemia. Patients prone to excessive blood loss during menstruation or as a result of hemorrhoids; or at risk for osteoporosis should consult their surgeon.
  • Patients may suffer from rapid gastric emptying – also called “dumping syndrome”. This occurs when undigested food is directed to your small intestine prematurely, and can cause nausea and abdominal cramping. Dumping syndrome can be triggered by consuming too much food or sugar. Some patients must refrain from sweets and high-fat foods entirely after surgery.
  • If the staple line is disrupted, leakage or infection may result. This may, in turn, require further hospitalization or surgery.
  • Blood clots can appear in the legs, and may travel to the lungs, causing a serious medical condition called pulmonary embolism. Smokers are more likely to get blood clots and, for this reason, your surgeon may encourage you to stop smoking before undergoing the procedure. Leg wraps as well as sufficient exercise can reduce the chances of experiencing blot clots.
  • If you have an open (not laparoscopic) procedure, a hernia, or weakness, may occur in an area of the incision. Depending on the severity, further surgery may be necessary to correct it. This complication is less likely to occur with laparoscopic surgery because the incision is substantially smaller in size.
  • Though a rare complication, it is possible that the opening between the top stomach and the small intestine will narrow. In most cases, this can be resolved through an outpatient procedure or, if necessary, additional surgery.
  • Kidney stones, gall stones, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration, stomach ulcers, and intolerance of certain foods are all potential side effects.

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