For those battling with morbid obesity, bariatric surgery may seem too dangerous. But not so, says Andrew M. DeWitt, MD, a bariatric surgeon in Birmingham. Today’s options and techniques for weight-loss surgery make it as safe as gallbladder removals. But people still underestimate the dedication needed to make this option successful.
Myth #1. “Many people still think that if they have weight-loss surgery than there’s a good chance they’re going to die,” says Dr. DeWitt. “But that’s not accurate.” It’s an old piece of information that dates back to when gastric bypass techniques were more extreme and relied on malabsorption of nutrients alone for the weight loss.
Myth #2. “You will not have diarrhea for the rest of your life if you eat the food you’re supposed to,” explains Dr. DeWitt. Old procedures removed a long portion of the intestine, which then caused diarrhea. “Now it’s kind of uncommon to see diarrhea. In fact, these days we see people more with constipation than diarrhea.”
Myth #3. “The biggest misconception about bariatric surgery is that it’s the easy way out of the morbid obesity dilemma. But weight-loss surgery takes a lot more commitment than a diet. You must make lifelong changes. Your life can depend on it,” stresses Dr. DeWitt. “If you’re not willing to make that level of commitment, don’t have the operation.”
Myth #4. There’s only one type of bariatric surgery. In fact, there’s three types. The most common is the restrictive options that lessen the available room in your stomach using bands or by removing part of the stomach. “This restricts the amount of food you can eat, so it works well with volume eaters, especially men,” says Dr. DeWitt. The other recent common option is a hybrid that combines restricting the stomach size — to a pouch about the size of your thumb — with bypassing part of the stomach. So you eat less and you absorb less.
To find a good bariatric surgeon. Ask questions. “Ask them how many weight loss surgeries they’ve performed. It should be over 100 a year,” says Dr. DeWitt. That’s the minimum quantity needed to be designated as a Center Of Excellence by the American College Of Surgeons. “That certification also shows that they do good follow-up with their patients, and good follow-up goes hand-in-hand with good results. You have to have a pretty good success rate or you won’t have the certification.”
by Jane Ehrhardt
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