It is common knowledge that being overweight is a serious condition, which often develops into other medical issues, such as heart problems, breathing problems, and frail bones. However, a report published in mid-October by the United Kingdom’s National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) warns against the proliferation of weight loss surgery as a rapid solution.
Indeed, such interventions are quick fixes for major issues—however, says the survey, they are often misrepresented by the providers. According to the same report, elective surgery facilities are using ethically questionable sales tactics in order to lure in their patients. These tactics include limited offers, misleading ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures that are visually manipulated and celebrity testimonials.
The Risks of Gastric Band Operations
Generally speaking, gastric band operations are usually safe, yet there are, as with any surgical intervention, risks and side-effects involved. Aside from the expected bruises, swells and local pains that any open wound involves, eating can often turn into a painful experience after the intervention, especially if the patient had overeating tendencies prior to the gastric band implant.
Post-op patients are recommended to drastically reduce their portions, take small bites when eating and chew with extreme care. Also, in cases of extreme weight excess, surgeons might warn against several complications that have been known to occur during such interventions. Highly overweight individuals are nearly twice as exposed to the risk of blood clots from a general anesthetic than people whose weight is closer to normal.
Diabetics should also consider such an intervention with extreme caution. Possible risks involve leakage and deflation of the gastric band or developing an infection, either in one’s stomach or in the chest area. Conversely, extreme weight loss that happens too soon after the surgery has been known to lead to the apparition of gallstones, which often need to be surgically removed.
The Risks of a Gastric Bypass
Similarly, the Mayo Clinic warns against the side effects and risks that come with a gastric bypass intervention. These include reactions to the anesthetic, localized infections, blood clots and damage to other internal organs—that the doctor will need to surgically intervene on.
Patients have also experienced gastrointestinal leakage, breathing issues, and several long-term issues. These include alterations to the nature of one’s bowel movements, which can either become obstructed or topple over into diarrhea.
Rare, yet recorded risks include hypoglycemia, hernia, and even death. Extreme weight loss is also a possible side effect, and can even go as far as to lead to malnutrition.
Bariatric Surgery Can Increase Risk of Substance Abuse
Yet another report, this time published by the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, states that weight loss surgery can lead to another type of addiction. The research was carried out on 155 patients who had experienced bariatric surgery and found that they had 50 per cent more chances to develop substance abuse issues two years post-surgery.
According to Alexis Conason, the leader of the team of researchers, many people who choose surgery as a rapid weight loss solution overeat because of various emotional problems. Once eating in excess is no longer an option for them, they turn to other types of dependencies, such as addictions to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
Conason’s research was actually an attempt to test out a popular theory in psychology: symptom substitution, in which people simply replace one behavioral problem symptom with another, once the first one has been eliminated. The theory proved it did hold out: in the case of patients who used to smoke and drink prior to surgery, their addictive behaviors had increased in frequency two years after the surgery. The rate of people who had tried recreational drugs pre-surgery also increased from 1 in 25 to 1 in 8.
As such, it is important to bear in mind that weight loss surgical interventions do come with their set of risks attached. They are quick, efficient solutions, but they can also give rise to unprecedented problems and, like all surgeries, should not be taken lightly.
Paul Estcott is a medical professional, a freelance writer and a registered dietician. He stresses the importance of having your annual check up blood test done regularly before considering any type of surgical intervention.