Gastric bypass surgery can definitely change a person's life for the better, but there are also some serious risks and profound life changes that go along with the surgery.
Since undergoing gastric bypass surgery this past March, Janice, an admitted shopaholic, has not done much shopping. "I have nothing to wear, but you go through so many sizes so quickly, it doesn't make any sense to shop."
Not that this retired art teacher from West Bloomfield, Mich. is complaining. Janice has dropped 70 pounds since her gastric bypass surgery and she is off just about every medication she was taking before her weight loss including asthma medications.
Like growing numbers of Americans (including such famous folk as weatherman Al Roker and singer Carnie Wilson), Janice turned to gastric bypass surgery to lose weight and live a longer, healthier life.
And despite the fact that this is a major surgery involving a whole host of often-difficult lifestyle changes and the potential for even more follow-up surgeries, most people would do it again -- in a minute. All in all, former gastric bypass surgery patients are an average of 100 pounds lighter, more active, feel better and take significantly less - if any - medication to treat the complications of obesity including diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.
"I am only sorry I didn't do it sooner," Janice says.
According to the New York Times, weight loss surgery procedures increased 40% last year, with 80,000 occurring nationwide. And statistics from the American Society for Bariatric Surgery predict there will be more than 103,000 such surgeries performed in 2003. By comparison, in 1998 there were less than 26,000, and in 1993 the number was just shy of 17,000.
Gastric bypass surgery involves shrinking the stomach size by sealing off most of the stomach and creating a small, thumb-sized pouch at the top of it, as well as bypassing a length of the small intestine to reduce the amount of calories and nutrients absorbed from food.
One thing for certain, gastric bypass surgery isn't always easy, or necessarily safe. The death rate nears 1%, meaning up to 400 people may die from the procedure annually. As many as 20% of patients need additional surgery to mend complications such as abdominal hernias. Due to malabsorption in the shortened digestive tract in procedures such as the jejunoileal bypass, roughly 30% of patients develop conditions due to malnutrition, such as anemia and osteoporosis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.