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How Weight Loss Surgery Can Change Your Life

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Choosing a Type of Weight Loss Surgery

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Adjustable Gastric Banding

What it is: Gastric banding is a type of restrictive weight loss surgery.

How it works: The surgeon uses an inflatable band to squeeze the stomach into two sections: a smaller upper pouch and a larger lower section. The two sections are still connected by a very small channel, which slows down the emptying of the upper pouch. Most people can only eat a 1/2 to 1 cup of food before feeling too full or sick. The food also needs to be soft or well-chewed.

Pros: This operation is simpler to do and safer than gastric bypass and other operations. You get a smaller scar, recovery is usually faster, and you can have surgery to remove the band.

You can also get the band adjusted in a doctor's office. To tighten the band and further restrict your stomach size, the doctor injects more saline solution into the band. To loosen it, the doctor uses a needle to remove liquid from the band.

Cons: People who get gastric banding often have less dramatic weight loss than those who get other surgeries. They may also be more likely to regain some of the weight over the years.

Risks: The most common side effect of gastric banding is vomiting after eating too much too quickly. Complications with the band can happen. It might slip out of place, become too loose, or leak. Some people need more surgeries. As with any operation, infection is a risk. Although unlikely, some complications can be life-threatening. 

Sleeve Gastrectomy

What it is: This is another form of restrictive weight loss surgery. In the operation, the surgeon removes about 75% of the stomach. What remains of the stomach is a narrow tube or sleeve, which connects to the intestines.

Sometimes, a sleeve gastrectomy is a first step in a series of weight loss surgeries. For some people, it's the only surgery they need.

Pros: For people who are very obese or sick, other weight loss surgeries may be too risky. A sleeve gastrectomy is a simpler operation that gives them a lower-risk way to lose weight. If needed, once they've lost weight and their health has improved -- usually after 12 to 18 months -- they can have a second surgery, such as gastric bypass.

Because the intestines aren't affected, a sleeve gastrectomy doesn't affect how your body absorbs food, so you're not likely to fall short on nutrients.

Cons: Unlike gastric banding, a sleeve gastrectomy is irreversible. Since it's relatively new, the long-term benefits and risks are still being evaluated.

Risks: Typical risks include infection, leaking of the sleeve, and blood clots.

Gastric Bypass Surgery (Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass)

What it is: Gastric bypass is the most common type of weight loss surgery. It combines both restrictive and malabsorptive approaches.

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