Top 5 Myths About Weight Loss Surgery

By Dr. Matthew Weiner, MD, FACS

May 21, 2013

1.) Weight Loss Surgery is the easy way out.
Many people believe that once they undergo weight loss surgery, their weight problems will be fixed. The truth is that dozens of factors control weight gain and weight loss – genetics, food choices, stress, medications, environment, hormones, and even financial stresses. Weight loss surgery is not a magic bullet cure for obesity. It’s just a tool – one of many tools in the toolbox – and lifelong, sustainable weight loss requires a multi-disciplinary approach.

After surgery, you will continue to struggle with your weight and nearly all of the same rules will apply. Weight loss surgery is definitely not easy – you will have to continue to do all of the things that you’ve done in the past to control your weight. The only difference is that it will work this time.

2.) After surgery, you lose weight because you can’t keep anything down.
In the first few months after surgery, you are significantly restricted to eating only a few bites of food at a time. Most patients will feel full and satisfied after only 1-2 bites. It is often common to overeat during this time period and vomit as a result. On average, most weight loss surgery patients vomit 2-3 time per month during the first three months after surgery.

After three months, there is a gradual relaxing of this restriction and you will eventually be able to eat more. After the three month mark, it is very uncommon for bariatric surgery patients to vomit. Over the next year, patients are able to gradually eat more until they are able to comfortably eat approximately half of what they were before surgery.

We now understand that bariatric surgery exerts the majority of its effect by re-adjusting your brain’s neurotransmitters and the levels of hormones that impact your appetite and your metabolism. This explains why you are able to maintain your weight loss despite a gradual relaxing of your gastric pouch.

3.) After surgery, you go to the bathroom multiple times per day because you’re not absorbing nutrients from your food.
Much like the vomiting myth, weight loss surgery patients don’t have to use the bathroom excessively. They absorb calories normally and go to the bathroom normally. If you know someone that had bathroom problems after surgery, chances are they had surgery a long time ago when the procedure bypassed a longer segment of intestine. Most patients complain more about constipation after surgery, rather than frequent bowel movements.

4.) Complications are very common after weight loss surgery.
Weight loss surgery is incredibly safe in 2013. Depending on your medical history and the amount of weight you have to lose, the serious complication rate is typically between one and four percent. This means that more than 95% of all patients do not have serious complications and get through the surgery without much difficulty at all. Almost all the surgeries are now performed through several small incisions using a technique called “laparoscopy.” This greatly reduces the amount of pain postoperatively and allows you to get up and walk around within a few hours after surgery.

The vast majority of patients are discharged on day two after surgery and approximately one-third do not need any prescription pain medicine after discharge from the hospital.

5.) You must be in great health – medically – to qualify for bariatric surgery.
I recently had a woman ask me if she would be turned down for weight loss surgery because she had stents in her heart. I’m not sure how this idea was fostered but I’ll tell you what I told her. I do bariatric surgery on patients who have stents in their hearts all the time. I would say probably 10% of the people I operate on have a history of having had a stent placed in their heart. Although the risks of surgery increase if your health is compromised, the benefits of the surgery are also increased. Only once patients become so sick that they have lost the ability to walk do we begin to become hesitant to proceed with surgery.

For more information on weight loss surgery or other weight loss options, call my office at 248-413-2670.