Sleeve gastrectomy

A sleeve gastrectomy is a common operation used to help people who are dangerously obese lose weight. A number of operations exist to achieve weight loss. Some are termed restrictive procedure which a sleeve gastrectomy operation belongs to. A restrictive procedure means that the operation aims to achieve the weight loss by limiting the amount of food that can be eaten.

A sleeve gastrectomy is an operation that is performed under general anaesthesia. In most cases this procedure is performed as a keyhole (laparoscopic) procedure. Once the surgeon has accessed the abdomen, an incision is made from the top of the stomach to the bottom of the stomach. The left side of the stomach is then removed and the remaining right side of the stomach is carefully stitched to form a new stomach.

Normally, the stomach functions as a holding mechanism for our food when we have eaten before the food is released to travel down the gastro-intestinal tract. The remaining stomach is normally about seventy five to eighty percent less in volume than the original stomach meaning that individuals will feel full on less food ingested.

There are some general risks and complications with any type of surgery which include:

  • Anaesthetic risk
  • Wound infection
  • Blood clots (due to relative inactivity during recovery)
  • Nausea and fatigue following the operation

There are also some more specific risks associated with a sleeve gastrectomy. These can include:

  • Deep abdominal infection sometimes leading to sepsis
  • Split of the stapled portion of the stomach leading to leakage
  • Gallstones
  • Ongoing reflux symptoms (heartburn)

Following a sleeve gastrectomy, patients will be monitored closely to check for any signs of complications. The normal stay in hospital is between three and five days.

The stitches in the newly created stomach will need time to heal and strengthen and as such patients will have an all liquid diet for a number of days following the surgery. Where no complications arise patients will then be asked to progress on to a pureed diet for up to three to four weeks after the operation. Solid food, starting with softer foods can begin to be eaten after a successful pureed diet has been followed.

In the longer term a sleeve gastrectomy can lead to significant weight loss. However, patients should be made aware prior to committing to the surgery that the results of the surgery are greatly improved for individuals who make lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes that are advisable following a sleeve gastrectomy include regular cardiovascular exercise as well as eating a balanced healthy diet. Adapting portion sizes to eat small meals five to six times per day is normally recommended long term.

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