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Weight loss surgery can be lifesaving for some people who have a lot of weight to lose and need more than diet and exercise. Depending on the operation, they often lose 30% to 50% of their extra weight within 6 months.

It's a big decision. You can’t eat as much afterward, and it takes a life-long commitment to diet and exercise to keep the pounds off. Because it’s major surgery, there are some risks, too.

You and your doctor should talk through the options and decide what’s right for you. First, you’ll want to know what to expect.

How Weight Loss Surgery Works

Some weight loss surgeries prevent the stomach from stretching to full size.

Normally, it can hold about 6 cups of food. After some operations, it can only hold a cup or so. You feel full faster, so you eat less and lose weight.

Some surgeries also bypass part of the intestine, so you absorb fewer calories and lose weight.

Today, most weight loss surgeries use small cuts -- known as “laparoscopic” surgery -- instead of a big one. The surgeon makes five to six of these small cuts in the belly. He inserts tiny tools and a camera through these holes, then operates while watching a video screen.

If that’s not possible, he may need to make one large cut along the middle of the belly.

Types of Weight Loss Surgery

Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery

This is the most common weight loss surgery done today. First, the surgeon divides the stomach into two parts, one large and one small. He then staples the small stomach portion to make a small pouch.

Next, he disconnects the stomach pouch from the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). Then he reconnects the stomach to the second part of the small intestine (the jejunum).This is the bypass.

After gastric bypass, you feel fuller after eating less food, so you lose weight. The bypass also makes you absorb fewer calories, so you drop more pounds.

Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding

This is the second most common weight loss surgery. The surgeon uses laparoscopic tools to place an inflatable silicone band around the upper stomach. He tightens the band so the stomach becomes a small pouch with a narrow outlet.

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