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What is a gastric bypass?

Gastric bypass is an effective weight loss surgery procedure used to help morbidly obese individuals achieve significant and long-term weight loss.

A gastric bypass procedure is performed (in most cases) using laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon creates a small pouch in the top of the stomach with the use of surgical staples, permanently partitioning the newly created pouch from the rest of the stomach, allowing food to enter the small pouch only and bypassing the rest of the stomach; this reduces the overall stomach capacity and therefore limits the food intake.

The surgeon creates a new opening in this pouch and then re-arranges the small intestine to connect to the pouch, this allows for drainage from both the pouch and the stomach.

Who qualifies for a gastric bypass?

This procedure has been specifically designed for obese patients with a body mass index greater than 40, as well as for patients who suffer from chronic or life threatening complications associated with obesity such as diabetes, coronary heart disease or Hypertension. This procedure has also been recommended for patients who’s response to other bariatric procedures such as gastric banding has been unsuccessful.

What can I expect during the procedure?

A gastric bypass operation is usually done under general anaesthesia.

First, a small incision is made near the belly button. Carbon dioxide is introduced into the abdomen to create a work space for the surgeon. Then a small laparoscopic camera is placed through the incision into the abdomen. The camera sends a picture of the stomach and abdominal cavity to a video monitor. It gives the surgeon a good view of the key structures in the abdominal cavity.

The surgeon will make an additional four to five small cuts on the upper abdomin, necessary to accommodate all the surgical instruments needed to perform the following procedure-

  • Creation of a small, thumb-sized pouch from the upper stomach
  • Re-construction of the GI tract to enable drainage of both segments of the stomach.

Maintenance after the procedure

Typically patients lose weight quickly over the first 3 - 6 months. During this time, it is common to experience body aches, fatigue, cold, dry skin, mood changes, hair loss or thinning hair. These symptoms are normal due to the rapid weight loss and will stabilise once the correct diet and lifestyle is in place and the body gets used to the new way of processing food.

All post surgical patients are required to follow the gastric bypass diet, which is designed to help them heal and change their eating habits. This diet involves phasing in food, starting with liquids, followed by pureed foods, then finally onto solids? Being able to eat normal foods with a firmer texture should take place about three months after the surgery.

In order to keep the weight off and the body healthy over the long term, a patient will be required to-

  • Keep meals small
  • Take recommended vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Drink liquids between meals
  • Eat and drink slowly
  • Chew food thoroughly
  • Focus on high-protein foods
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar

Are there any side-effects of the gastric bypass procedure?

gastric bypass surgery is considered to be the most invasive and the highest risk of the bariatric procedures, there are many possible side-effects and the mortality rate is far greater than that of other weight loss surgeries such as gastric banding.

Surgical Complications include-

  • Infection
  • Hemorrhage
  • Hernia
  • Venous thromboembolism (blood clots)
  • Leaks or perforations

Post Surgery Side-effects and Complications include-

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dumping syndrome (the body’s response to the rapid increase in sugar taken in by the small intestine, due to the bypass)
  • Hair Loss
  • Intolerance to certain foods, beverages and drugs
  • Constipation
  • Blocked opening of your stomach pouch
  • Ulcers

Will my medical Aid cover Gastric banding?

This depends on which medical aid you are with and which plan of that Medical aid you chose. But yes, the procedure should be covered by most medical aids. It is advised to consult the medical aid to determine this.


Author: South African Spas