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Wear The Gown: Using bariatric surgery to lose weight

There are two main options available to patients.

SAN ANTONIO — When someone is overweight to the point they are obese, sometimes weight loss surgery is one of the only options to get that weight off and reduce other health risks. 

Qualifying for bariatric surgery is largely dependant on your BMI, or Body Mass Index. That's a measurement of your weight versus your height. If a patient has a BMI of 35 or above, as well as a medical condition related to their obesity, they are generally eligible for weight loss surgery. If a patient has a BMI of 40 or above they generally qualify, even without a related medical condition. And right now, there are two surgical options available.

"The gastric bypass has been around a long time. It's actually been used in weight-loss surgeries for about the past 40 years and is a very popular weight loss operation," said Dr. Kent VanSickle, the Division Chief for general and minimally invasive surgery at UT Health San Antonio, and the Medical Director for the University Health System weight loss program.

He said gastric bypass, also known as the Roux-en-y, is becoming less common. With this surgery, the food you eat will no longer go into parts of your stomach and small intestine that absorb food. "It is more complex in it's technique and postoperative recovery," Dr. VanSickle said.

The second option, which is often much more effective, is called the gastric sleeve. Dr. VanSickle said, "It's a procedure where the stomach is stapled with a stapling device into a much thinner, narrower stomach, which restricts the amount of food and volume of food that a patient can eat."

Both procedures can also eliminate a variety of obesity-related conditions, including diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, and, in some cases, different types of cancers. But Dr. VanSickle said surgery is just a tool to help lose weight, with diet and exercise needed after either procedure is done. "The treatment or the cure for these obesity related problems is to lose weight, and the advantage of surgery is the weight loss is more rapid than with just dieting alone and it's durable," he said.

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