19 February 2013
Obesity is a major problem in the UK, as it is around the world. There are thought to be around 700,000 morbidly obese people – those with a body mass index (BMI) above 40 – in Great Britain alone.
For people who are severely obese, a number of treatment options are now available, such as gastric banding. However, many people are concerned about the safety and success of such surgeries.
What is weight loss surgery?
Broadly, there are two kinds of weight loss surgery – gastric banding and gastric bypass.
Gastric banding sees a band fitted around the top of the stomach, which causes people to feel full after eating only a very small amount of food.
Gastric bypass surgery involves the cutting and stapling of stomach and bowel to create a small pouch. This limits the amount of food that can be consumed.
Is gastric band surgery safe?
Recent research in Australia found that gastric banding is a safe and effective long-term strategy for managing obesity.
A team at the Centre for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) at Monash University in Melbourne followed 3,227 gastric banding patients who underwent the surgery between 1994 and 2011.
The found that on average, patients who underwent the surgery ten to 15 years ago lost 26 kilograms, or almost half of their excess weight. There were no deaths associated with the surgery or from any later operations.
Professor Paul O'Brien, who led the study, said the results show that effective long-term solutions are available for people who are severely obese.
"This surgery is safe and effective, and it has lasting benefits," he said. "Substantial weight loss can change the lives of people who are obese – they can be healthier and live longer."
The study also found that weight loss after gastric banding was helpful in controlling Type 2 diabetes, with about three-quarters of people reviewed in the research effectively managing their blood sugar levels without the need for medication.
People who are very obese are advised to improve their diet and levels of exercise before considering weight loss surgery. However, when such options have proved ineffective, weight loss surgery can be an option.
People seeking weight loss surgery privately are likely to be required to meet the same criteria as on the NHS: that they should have a clinical, not cosmetic, need for surgery, that they have a BMI of more than 40, or that they have a BMI of more than 35 or above as well as another serious health condition, such as Type 2 diabetes.
People thinking of undergoing gastric band surgery should always talk to a health professional about their options. But the results of the Australian study discussed above suggest that weight loss surgeries are effective and safe.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.