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What Is Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Gastric sleeve surgery, also called sleeve gastrectomy or vertical sleeve gastrectomy, is a type of weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery. Weight loss surgery is intended for patients who are obese, or severely overweight, not for those who only need to lose a little weight. During gastric sleeve surgery, a portion of the stomach is removed to reduce appetite and prevent over-consumption of calories. This anatomical alteration is permanent. Patients planning to undergo any type of weight loss surgery should discuss the possible risks and complications with their doctors, as well as permanent lifestyle changes that will be necessary following the procedure.

Not all people are candidates for gastric sleeve surgery. They must have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40 or higher; however, those with a BMI of 35 or higher may also be considered if they have an illness related to obesity, such as diabetes. Candidates for surgery should have already tried to lose weight through diet and exercise. They must be committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle after the surgery through physical activity, healthy eating, and regular medical check-ups.

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Before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery, patients must understand the potential risks. Complications of surgery can include infection and blood clots, as well as hernias, which are bulges in the abdominal wall. Staples are used to hold the stomach together, and these may sometimes fail, which can cause leakage of stomach acid into the surrounding tissues. Some patients may also regain weight if they frequently eat high-calorie meals or as the stomach gradually stretches.

Once a patient has decided to undergo gastric sleeve surgery, he must follow his doctor's orders to prepare for the procedure. Smokers must quit using tobacco for a minimum of one month prior to the surgery and one month following it. This habit increases the risk of pneumonia, infections, and blood clots. Sometimes, a patient may be advised to follow a special diet.

After the patient is placed under anesthesia, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the abdomen. Very small instruments are used to remove approximately 85 percent of the stomach, rendering it about the size of a banana. Staples are placed to hold the edges of the stomach together. Reducing the stomach's size makes the patient feel full faster during a meal, so that he consumes fewer calories. It also decreases the production of a hormone called ghrelin, which greatly reduces the appetite.

Most people can expect to remain in the hospital for about 48 hours after the gastric sleeve surgery. A full recovery typically takes three weeks, but most patients can resume non-strenuous activities in two weeks. Patients will consume a liquid diet for the first two weeks, followed by a diet of liquids and pureed foods for the next two weeks, before they can resume eating solid food. They will only be able to eat small meals, which should be consumed slowly and chewed thoroughly. Patients will also need to permanently follow a healthy diet plan and engage in regular exercise.

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