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Gastric Bypass Surgery Explained

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Gastric Bypass Gastric Bypass Surgery

A gastric bypass procedure is often considered to be the ‘last resort’ if a person is morbidly obese and all other efforts to reduce their weight have failed. It’s not a ‘quick fix’ solution to the problems of carrying excessive weight and GPs will always try to recommend other alternatives to losing weight such as regular physical exercise and a healthy, balanced diet first of all.

The Operation

The procedure involves reducing the size of your stomach and taking away part of the bowel in order to make your digestive system shorter. The result being that you’ll experience the feeling of being full up on much smaller portions at meal times and your body will consequently need fewer calories from what you eat.

It involves a hospital stay of between 3 to 5 days and the surgery itself is carried out under general anaesthetic. A gastric bypass entails the surgeon creating a pouch from the upper section of your stomach and then removing a part of your small intestine in order to make it shorter. That is then reconnected to the pouch so that the food you ingest bypasses a part of your digestive system and is less easily absorbed by the body.

Surgery can be carried out using the traditional scalpel method or by using a laparoscopic (keyhole) procedure and it takes around 2 to 3 hours to complete.

After The Operation

Following the operation, you will usually be taken to a high dependency unit where things like your heart, blood pressure and other vital organs will be closely monitored. Once the surgical team are happy that everything is in order, you will then be taken back to your room or ward.

You may have a tube attached passing through your nose to your stomach for the first couple of days. This is completely normal and is simply there to drain fluid and air from your stomach to prevent you feeling bloated or sick. You might also have a catheter fitted to drain urine from your bladder and another tube might be inserted into your abdomen to drain off fluid.

There’s also the possibility that you’ll have special pads and a compression pump to inflate them fitted on your lower legs. This is simply to prevent clotting and promote healthy blood flow.


For the first couple of weeks post-surgery, you’ll only be able to have liquidised food and a dietician will be able to offer you advice. However, even beyond the initial recovery period, gastric bypass surgery means that your eating habits will need to be radically transformed for the rest of your life if the surgery is going to be a success.

The greatest risk with this type of surgery surrounds the possibility of developing blood clots in your legs (deep vein thrombosis or ‘DVT’) and you’re most at risk of this in the first 6 weeks after the operation. However, compression stockings and the occasional use of a compression pump along with blood thinning drugs are used to try to prevent this from happening.

For some people, a gastric bypass operation has dramatically improved their quality of life by enabling them to shed excess weight which might otherwise have ultimately killed them. It can enable severely obese people to regain a sense of self control and, ultimately, can improve both their psychological feelings of self worth and dignity as well as the reduced weight allowing them more mobility where they may have been virtual ‘prisoners’ in their own home previously.

However, for others, it might not produce the dramatic effects that were desired or a person may lose weight then regain it again. The success of gastric bypass surgery usually rests with the determination of the patient coupled with their commitment to follow the dietary and other advice that is given to them.

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