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Weight Loss Surgery: Long-Term Results

Bariatric surgery can help you get past those cravings, get healthier, and be more active.
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WebMD Feature

After weight loss surgery, success is a long-term project. But if you can stick with a healthy diet and exercise, experts say you’ll enjoy extremely satisfying results.

By most estimates, 80% or more of patients do well after surgery, says Atul Madan, MD, chief of bariatric surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "They have lost the weight they wanted to lose and have kept it off."

Quality of life is vastly improved after bariatric surgery, Madan tells WebMD. "Multiple studies show that patients are healthier. They have fewer obesity-related conditions like sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other medical problems."

"They get off medications, they can be more active, they're healthier," says Anita Courcoulas, MD, MPH, chief of minimally invasive bariatric surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Suddenly, they're able to do things with the family. They have improvements in depression."

Nearly all their patients have lost weight before -- again and again and again.

"Some have lost hundreds of pounds in a year or two, then it's come back," says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, a nutrition expert and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Weight Management Center. "They have the ability to lose weight, but they can't keep it off. They are unhappy. They don't want to be fat."

Weight Loss Surgery: Beware the Pitfalls

Usually, during the first two years after bariatric surgery, diet and exercise changes come easily, says Courcoulas.

"There is such rapid weight loss, and there's a bit of euphoria with that. They're active and feeling wonderful," she tells WebMD. Once weight loss goals are reached, it's time for maintenance mode. That's a risky stage for some people -- as some slip into bad habits.

"For gastric bypass patients, weight loss can plateau at two years," Courcoulas explains. They're not consistently losing anymore. They're at a steady weight.

If you slack off exercise, start snacking, eat slightly bigger portions -- there's the risk that you will gain weight back. That's where a good support system is critical, to make sure you stick with good habits, she says.

Regular appointments with your surgeon are critical, Madan adds. "Often, complications occur when patients become complacent. They stop making follow-up visits with their surgeon. Then they develop a problem five years after surgery."

With gastric banding procedures, follow-up is directly related to success because frequent adjustments in bands are necessary for weight loss, he says.

"The band can be consistently adjusted as hunger and fullness change over time," Courcoulas explains. "Gastric bypass patients lose quickly, regain a little, then level out. [Gastric banding] patients lose more slowly, but they don't tend to regain."

Weight Loss Surgery: Tips for Long-Term Success

Don’t look at it as dieting. This is a complete lifestyle change -- exercise and food habits -- that should enhance the rest of your life.

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