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Pros and Cons of Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery is lifesaving for some people, taking off pounds that have hurt their health. But it's not right for everyone who has a lot of weight to lose.  

If you're thinking about it, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks, and whether it's a good idea for you.

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Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery can help you shed a lot of pounds.

That weight loss often leads to other health benefits. Improvements in general health are common. Obesity-related medical conditions usually improve or even go away after weight loss surgery, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Severe arthritis
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure

After weight loss surgery, most people -- about 95% -- say their quality of life is better. Some studies also suggest people live longer after weight loss surgery, compared to equally obese people who don't get surgery.

Risks of Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery carries real risks. As many as 10% of people have complications afterward.

Usually problems are only unpleasant or inconvenient. Some might cause some pain and discomfort or require additional surgeries, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Wound infections
  • Abdominal hernias

Serious complications can happen, too. Those are rare, happening about 3% of the time. Some can be life-threatening:

The risk is higher for people over age 60. Having weight loss surgery at a center with very experienced surgeons reduces this risk.

Even after successful weight loss surgery, other problems are common:

  • Gallstones, often requiring gallbladder removal
  • Vitamin deficiencies or malnutrition, from poor absorption of nutrients
  • Sagging skin, requiring body contouring surgery

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Andrew Seibert, MD on February 05, 2012
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