Bariatric surgery for obesity

Sahana Charan

A band is placed at the top of the stomach to restrict food intake

Morbid obesity: weighing 40 kg more than ideal body weightBariatric surgery is a reversible procedureThere are other procedures such as gastric bypass

Bangalore: For Sushila (name changed), who was `morbidly obese,' undergoing weight-loss surgery was not a mere procedure to lose a few kilograms but a life-saving one.

The middle-aged woman weighed around 110 kg and suffered from medical problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. But the operation, also known as bariatric surgery, came as a boon to her.

Sushila also underwent `gastric banding,' a surgical procedure that involves the placing of a band at the top of the stomach to restrict food intake.

Morbid obesity can be defined as weighing around 40 kg more than the ideal body weight.

"It is more than two weeks since I underwent the surgery, and I have not had any side-effects. Moreover, my blood pressure is back to normal and my blood sugar level is also under control," says Sushila.

The surgery was done at M.S. Ramaiah Memorial Hospital by P.S. Venkatesh Rao, endocrine and laparoscopic surgeon.

"A special band is placed around the top of the patient's stomach so that only a small part of the stomach is available and food intake is restricted. This way the patient feels full after taking a little amount of food. It is a reversible procedure and the band can be removed in future," Dr. Rao says.

Sedentary lifestyles and high disposables incomes coupled with wrong eating habits are making people increasingly overweight, according to medical experts. Bariatric surgery has brought hope, as a last resort, to people who are so obese that they rarely step out of their homes.

There are other types of weight-loss surgeries offered such as gastric bypass (where a part of the stomach is removed and a bypass is created from the stomach to the intestine), but these are irreversible procedures and may lead to complications, he says.

"The surgery is recommended for persons for whom weight loss programmes or cosmetic procedures have not worked and for those who have major health problems because they are obese. A lot of diagnostic tests are done and precautions taken to rule out complications," according to Dr. Rao, a former faculty member at Christian Medical College, Vellore, and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.

People who are morbidly obese are at high risk of getting diabetes, hypertension, lipid and cholesterol problems, osteoarthritis and heart failure. Many people who are obese may die of sleep apnea because their weight restricts their breathing. "It (bariatric surgery) is not a cosmetic procedure," he adds.

But the surgery does not come without risks. Apart from the high cost involved, bariatric surgery may lead to complications such as anaemia and osteoporosis and even death, according to various studies. A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the United States revealed that many patients experienced complications a few months after surgery and post-operative costs went up significantly because of this.

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