A Weighty Decision

Deciding to undergo any weight loss procedure is a monumental commitment—here’s all you need to know.

Bariatric surgery—colloquially known as weight loss surgery—refers to a number of procedures that involve reducing the size of the stomach in order to limit calorie intake. The surgery is only offered on the NHS to obese people with a BMI of over 40, or those with a BMI of between 35 and 40 if they suffer from other serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Bariatric surgery will only be considered on the NHS if all other means of weight loss such as diet and exercise have been exhausted.

Types of surgery 

Weight loss procedures are usually performed via keyhole surgery. The most common types of bariatric surgery are:  

Sleeve gastrectomy. This surgery involves the complete removal of a large portion of the stomach. The new, smaller stomach size means that patients will feel full quicker and will absorb less calories than before surgery.                 

Gastric band. In this procedure, a band will be placed around the top of the stomach, creating a small pouch. The band is connected to a device that can loosen or tighten it as necessary.

Gastric bypass. Surgical staples are used to create a pouch at the top of the stomach. It is then stapled to the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach. 


While weight loss surgery is commonplace in the UK, there are still risks involved. One of the most common risks is vitamin deficiency, whereby the body isn’t able to absorb the sufficient amounts of vitamins needed for healthy functionality. Bariatric surgery patients may need to take vitamin supplements for the rest of their lives following the procedure. Patients are also at an increased risk of contracting gallstones or developing deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the leg). Patients who undergo a sleeve gastrectomy may also be at risk of the band slipping out of place. Fast weight loss can leave patients with excess skin after surgery and removal isn’t usually available on the NHS.

Life after surgery

Weight loss surgery can achieve exceptional results, with the NHS reporting that patients can lose up to 70 percent of their excess body weight. Surgery is not a cure for obesity, however, and patients should practice a lifelong commitment to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regularly in order to keep the weight off. There are numerous support groups across the UK that can prove to be invaluable to patients, providing a pillar of support and advice.

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