May 152016
Weight loss surgery

Obesity is rising in Canada, costing over $3 billion each year. With its associated risks, this is a problem that badly needs a solution. Weight loss surgery is one such fix. Newer, less invasive procedures are also gaining in popularity.

Weight Loss Surgery Numbers

Bariatric surgeries are serious interventions. They change the anatomy of the GI tract. This can lead to improvements in markers related to heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure. Per the CBC, weight loss surgeries have increased sharply in recent years. In 2012-13, over 6,000 Canadians underwent such procedures. In 2006-07, by contrast, just 1,600 such surgeries were performed. These figures raise important questions: Who are these patients? What other options are open to them?

Lap Band Surgery
A BMI of 35-40 is required for any bariatric surgery to be approved. In lap band surgery, a loop of material is placed around the upper part of the stomach. A small pouch is created, and the stomach’s outlet is narrowed. The patient feels full sooner, and stays satiated longer because digestion takes longer.

This is a minimally invasive surgery, and band used can be adjusted. The patient’s stomach can be kept at the optimum size to ensure healthy absorption and weight loss. While complications are possible, this is a very safe surgical intervention for obesity. In Canada, wait lists can be long, especially in Eastern provinces with limited resources.

Gastric Sleeve
A gastric sleeve is another common procedure. In this surgery, 80 to 85 percent of the stomach is completely removed. Following surgery, patients need to adjust to much smaller portion sizes. They may also require vitamin supplements; the loss of so much tissue affects nutrient absorption. Potential side effects include dumping syndrome, where food enters the small intestine too quickly. It causes diarrhea, nausea, and feelings of faintness.

Gastric Balloon
The gastric balloon is a non-invasive procedure. The minimum BMI for this procedure is 27, much lower than for surgeries. It represents a middle ground between lifestyle changes and surgery. An endoscope is inserted via the esophagus and deposits a balloon into the stomach. The balloon is filled with saline. Patients feel fuller more quickly, and eat less. After six months, the balloon is deflated and removed. Though less invasive than surgery, education and dietary change are key if the results of this procedure are to last.

Obesity is expected to increase. The Canada Child Benefit should help curtail childhood obesity, but for adults medical strategies will continue to be important. All of these strategies will continue to be important in combating the problem of obesity in Canada. Monetary and quality of life costs are too high to rely on lifestyle change alone.

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