Bariatric surgery is becoming increasingly popular as Ireland’s growing obesity crisis worsens. Many people are turning to costly weight loss surgery, but how effective is it?
Gastric bands, gastric bypasses and gastric balloons – to name the most commonly performed procedures – appear to offer a solution to the problem of obesity by physically restricting the amount you can eat. Morbidly obese patients can expect to lose 50% of their weight in just two years.
But bariatric surgery doesn’t come cheap – it costs the HSE around €10,000 for a gastric band procedure and aftercare. (What’s more, it rarely comes with counselling to address the psychological reasons why people overeat.) As a result, not everyone who wants – or believes they need – this type of surgery can get it for free.
The best solution?
‘For people who have tried all other methods of losing weight without success, and whose weight is now a risk to their life because of complications such as diabetes, there’s evidence that having bariatric surgery is a worthwhile intervention,’ says Dr Gill Jenkins, a GP in Bristol with a special interest in weight-management issues. ‘It will help you lose weight. But, in my view, it would be much better if the NHS offered people a VLCD and weight-loss counselling before offering surgery.’
Many people choose LighterLife so they can slim down to a safe enough level to have bariatric surgery. However, they often find their weight loss so quick and sustainable with the programme, they decide against going under the knife.
While many might consider it the only way, bariatric surgery is not quite the quick fix that it first appears. Like all surgery, it has risks, which include:
- Obese people are more likely to have problems waking up from the anaesthetic, and are also at greater risk of post-surgery respiratory problems and blood clots
- You can get an infection, suffer internal bleeding or one of your other organs, such as your liver, might be damaged.
- In the long term, other things might go wrong: a gastric band, for example, could slip or erode into the stomach. Although fatalities and major complications are rare, one in 20 patients having a gastric band suffers a problem that requires further surgery or deflation of the band.