Is Weight Loss Surgery Safe?
Yes, but there are many variables to keep in mind when you are looking into weight loss surgery and the risk you will be taking. The type of surgery, where it will be done, and who will be doing it are some examples of factors that determine how safe a surgery is.
Bariatric surgery has come a very long way over the last ten years. There are four primary operations that are available these days: gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, and biliopancreatic diversion. In that order, the complication rates can vary between 0.5%-4% reported in the literature.
The hospitals where bariatric surgery is being performed should be designated as centers of excellence. This means that they do a high volume of these surgeries there, have all the needed equipment to handle any problems, and have dedicated and experienced surgeons doing the operations. The complication rates of bariatric (weight loss) surgery at this centers are much lower than non-center of excellence facilities.
Finally, look into your surgeon’s background. Find out if there are complaints, how long he or she has been in practice, how many bariatric cases he has done or does in a year, etc. Most bariatric surgeons these days are fellowship trained. That is, they have dedicated an entire year after their surgical training to do just these operations. In my practice, 80% of my surgeries are bariatric operations. It is what I enjoy and so I focus on doing a high volume with excellent results.
Low complication rates are expected. The risk of having a complication after weight loss surgery is about the same as having a complication after a gallbladder surgery; however, unlike gallbladder surgery, not all general surgeons do these operations. The operations themselves carry individual risk and should be discussed with your surgeon.
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