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Gastric Bypass Surgery: Pros And Cons

Updated on December 16, 2016
Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass
Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

How Is Gastric Bypass Surgery Performed?

The most common bariatric surgery performed today is the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

In it, the very top portion of the stomach is separated, to form a pouch about the size of an egg. The remaining part of the stomach and several inches of the small intestine are bypassed.

So the surgery works in 2 ways: the amount of food you can eat is drastically reduced, and since part of the intestine is bypassed, less of what you do eat is absorbed.

Thousands of People Consider Gastric Bypass Surgery Every Day
Thousands of People Consider Gastric Bypass Surgery Every Day

Who Is Eligible For Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Not everyone is a candidate for gastric bypass surgery.

Most bariatric surgeons (and the insurance companies that cover weight loss surgery) have the following requirements for potential patients:

  • You must have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of at least 40, which for most people means being about 100 pounds overweight or...
  • You must have a BMI of at least 35 and also have one or more co-morbidities (dangerous side effects of obesity) such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, or other obesity-related condition.

The first step in most bariatric surgery practices is attending an informational meeting. These usually last anywhere from 1-2 hours, and give you an opportunity to meet your potential surgeon. During this time, he or she generally explains the procedure, the expected benefits and all of the potential complications, then opens the floor to questions from attendees.

Unfortunately, many patients describe these meetings as "information overload" and say they rarely remember many of the points brought up. This is why it's good to do your own independent research before making any decision.

Additionally, before you are approved, you will most likely be asked to undergo a basic psyciatric evaluation to ensure you understand what you're getting into and are mentally healthy enough to make the decision. Sometimes you'll be required to undergo a 6 month long medically supervised diet. And most surgeons will also provide nutritional counselling so that you're fully aware of what your diet will be like after surgery, and how to make choices that will help you succeed.

Having to jump through so many hoops to get your gastric bypass surgery approved just underscores the fact that it is a serious decision that will change the rest of your life forever.

But once you've gone through the entire approval process, chances are good that you know what you're getting into and will have the information you need to make the choice that's right for you.

Gastric Bypass Patients Typically Lose 80% Of Excess Weight
Gastric Bypass Patients Typically Lose 80% Of Excess Weight

How Much Weight Do Gastric Bypass Surgery Patients Lose?

You've probably already heard the statistics that say 95% of all dieters will regain the weight they lose and then some. In fact, that statistic is one of the main arguments for having weight loss surgery.

A study published in the November, 2006 Annals of Surgery, (Weight Gain After Short- and Long-Limb Gastric Bypass in Patients Followed for Longer Than 10 Years) found that gastric bypass surgery patients lose an average of 62 - 68% of their excess weight within the first year.

For a 300 pound person whose "normal" weight should be around 145, that would mean a loss of 96 - 100 pounds. Weight loss continues at a much slower rate in the second year, after which the average patient has lost 75 - 80% of excess weight. In our example, that would be between 116 - 124 pounds lost.

34% of patients maintain that 80% loss for 10 years or more. Most, however, do regain some weight. The average gastric bypass patient maintains a loss of 50 - 75% of their excess weight 10 years after surgery.

So again, an individual who weighed 300 pounds before surgery, who had a goal weight of 145, could expect to weigh somewhere between 183 and 222 10 years later. That's not supermodel skinny, but a serious improvement nonetheless.

Of course, this is just the average. Other studies have shown that exercise (or a lack thereof) in particular can make a big difference both in the amount of weight lost and the amount regained.

Gastric Bypass Surgery Has Benefits Beyond Weight Loss
Gastric Bypass Surgery Has Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Gastric Bypass Surgery Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Of course, the benefits of gastric bypass surgery go way beyond weight loss. According to The American Society For Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, benefits include:

  •  Up to 83% of Type II Diabetes cases cured
  • 52 - 92% of Hypertension cases resolved
  • 80% of Metabolic Syndrome cases resolved
  • 82% of Asthma cases improved or resolved
  • 55% of Depression cases resolved
  • 57% saw Migraines disappear
  • 82% risk reduction in cardiovascular disease
  • 74 - 98% Sleep Apnea cases resolved

Other studies have found gastric bypass surgery can:

  • Increase libido in men
  • Have a significant effect on diabetes and cancer
  • Cut the risk of heart attack
  • Improve cognitave abilities
  • Improve fertility
  • Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and other complications during pregnancy

Citations for the above studies, as well as more information on the benefits of gastric bypass surgery, can be found at

There Are Also Potential Complications And Unpleasant Side Effects Of Gastric Bypass
There Are Also Potential Complications And Unpleasant Side Effects Of Gastric Bypass

Possible Complications And Unpleasant Side Effects Of Gastric Bypass Surgery

Every surgery carries some risk, and gastric bypass is no different. Unfortunately, in their efforts to minimize worry and fear (and sign up as many new patients as possible) some bariatric surgeons make weight loss surgery seem much more minor than it is.

Be sure you understand: Gastric bypass is major surgery. Even when performed laparoscopically, it will take a few weeks to recover. And the first of those weeks can be downright miserable (more on that below.)

Approximately 5% of gastric bypass patients experience some kind of complication. 10% experience some kind of problem that requires attention from a doctor or nurse.

Potential post-operative complications include:

  • Respiratory problems including difficulty breathing
  • Leaking of intestine or stomach contents - this requires further surgery to correct
  • Infections
  • Re-opening of the incision
  • Blood clots that form in the legs and move to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) this is rare, and risk is lowered by the use of special stockings or inflatable boots that improve circulation during surgery
  • Bowel obstructions (can occur from any type of abdominal surgery)
  • Ulcers
  • Gallstones - one study found that up to one third of gastric bypass patients will develop gallstones from losing the weight so rapidly. Some surgeons skip this problem by removing the gall bladder at the same time as the gastric bypass is performed
  • Vitamin deficiencies - this is one of the most common, serious, and preventable complications of gastric bypass surgery. The part of the small intestine that is bypassed is where many nutrients are absorbed. For this reason gastric bypass surgery patients must take multiple vitamins every day for the rest of their lives.
  • Reactive hypoglycemia
  • Kidney Stones
  • Internal Hernias and bowel "twists"

While one or more the above complications happen to roughly 5% of patients, nearly everyone experiences many of the following unpleasant side effects:

  • Dumping. Foods that are too high in sugar, fat or grease will enter your intestines too quickly and make you nauseous, sweaty, and possibly give you hot flashes. Your pulse pounds in your head and you may become lightheaded, get cramps of diarrhea. It's a great deterrent to eating the wrong thing again any time soon.
  • Vomiting. Eat too much and it comes back up.
  • Clogging (food blockage) happens when you eat too fast and don't chew your food small enough to pass through the opening to your intestine. It hurts, and you may vomit.
  • Constipation
  • Gas comes from swallowing air with food or drink. It can hurt, and it can be smelly. Beano or gas-x helps
  • Intoxication - you'll be a cheap drunk as alcohol enters your system much faster than before. It also wears off faster
  • Hibernation Syndrome - in the first weeks after surgery your body must adjust to the sudden lack of nutrients. You may feel tired, draggy, even depressed for a while. Then your body adjusts and you get a jolt of energy
  • Hair loss usually occurs from about the 3rd month to the end of the first year. It gets really thin, some people get small bald spots. It's temporary, nobody completely bald, and the hair usually starts growing back by the end of the first year.
  • Menstrual Problems - cycles sometimes become irregular, but stabilize in a few months
  • Lactose Intolerance can be caused by the natural sugar in dairy products

Again, there's lots more information on the potential gastric bypass surgery complications at

Me Before Gastric Bypass Surgery
Me Before Gastric Bypass Surgery
Me 16 Months After Gastric Bypass Surgery
Me 16 Months After Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric Bypass Surgery Will Change Your Life

Now that you've seen the potential pros and cons of gastric bypass surgery, you're in a little bit better position to decide if this is the right option for you.

But don't stop here. This surgery will change your life in ways you can't possibly imagine. If you're seriously thinking of having it, do all the research you can. Know what you're getting into.

Had I known about some of the things I would face after having gastric bypass surgery, I would have been more prepared. They would not have been nearly as traumatic when they happened.

So learn everything you can, and then make the decision that is best for you!

You can get a lot of great information at the links below. You can also read my gastric bypass story (and a lot of other great info) at


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    • profile image

      Jonas Keefer 3 years ago

      I have a lot of friends who undergo gastric bypass surgery and they look physically fit and free to do everything they want and I wanted to give it a try.

    • MsHoneyGraham profile image

      MsHoneyGraham 6 years ago from Borington,North Carolina-I mean Warrenton, North Carolina

      Hi Lisa! This hub was very informative. I recently had gastric bypass surgery in August and have lost 46 pounds so far. You are very inspiring and you look amazing. Blessings on your continued weight loss journey!

    • profile image

      Eric 7 years ago

      There's a great simplified interactive gastric bypass over at for free if anyone's interested in seeing what happens in the procedure (this is for RNY laparoscopic)

    • profile image

      Machelle  8 years ago

      I am having gastric bypass In October 2009 and I am looking for a vitamin plan to prevent hair loss. Or to help with it. Any help would be great

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Great info and extremely well written.

    • profile image

      Joann Eyster 9 years ago

      I had the surgery in Sept of 07 and have lost 141lbs. I was previously 324lbs, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Congrats on your success. You look really great

    • puter_dr profile image

      Mike Bouska 9 years ago from Midwest USA

      You look really good. Lisa, Congrats

      I have a high BMI, but I cannot get my insurance to approve the surgery.

    • SasseGuide profile image

      SasseGuide 9 years ago from Reno, NV

      You look great. I wish you continued success in your efforts.