With estimates that it affects nearly 42% of the population, it has become well known that the United States has an obesity problem. The traditional and popular methods of losing weight—mainly adopting a restrictive diet and/or a punishing exercise regimen—have unfortunately not made a difference in this area over time. One approach that consistently does make a difference is weight loss surgery, also referred to as bariatric surgery. Yet even though bariatricians are passionate about the potential benefits of these procedures, there are still only a fraction of eligible patients who actually opt in.
Bariatric medicine is a branch of the medical field that involves the causes of and treatment for obesity and obesity-related conditions. Bariatrics is a relatively new branch of medicine that has only really existed since the 1960s, and that may be part of why people who might benefit from it are hesitant to get help. While bariatric surgery is a significant component of many obesity interventions, bariatric doctors typically use it in combination with recommended changes in eating habits and physical activity levels.
Over the years, the relative ineffectiveness of various popular weight loss programs has sparked greater interest in the possibility of weight loss surgery. At the same time, advances in surgical technology have made the procedures safer than ever. All of this has led to an increase in the number of patients who actually opt in for surgery. In fact, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the incidence of bariatric surgery has nearly doubled since 2011 and is expected to continue rising.
In the decades since bariatric surgery first emerged as a reliable approach to treating obesity, a number of different procedures have been developed. Most of these procedures attempt to promote weight loss by one or both of two main modalities: reducing absorption of nutrients and limiting the amount of food that can be ingested in one sitting. Below is a list of the most common weight loss procedures and what is involved:
The main reason bariatric surgery has become more common is that it has an impressive track record of success, especially when compared with methods that rely on lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. In one recent study, for example, participants were able to lose 15-25% of body weight and only regain 1-3% after seven years. But even beyond meeting weight loss goals, there is substantial evidence that bariatric surgery can also lead to improvements in various aspects of health and reduced risk for developing obesity-related medical conditions:
As effective as bariatric surgery can be, the fact remains that there are risks to any surgical procedure. Even with laparoscopy, small incisions are still incisions that can bleed or become infected. Also, some people with morbid obesity have additional health problems that make surgery a non-starter. Others may not be able to qualify for surgery because their BMI (body mass index) is high but not high enough. In light of all of these concerns, state-of-the-art alternatives have been developed that aim to have similar effectiveness without the risks of actual surgery.
One of the most impressive sets of alternatives is known as endobariatric weight loss procedures. Rather than using laparoscopy as most other methods require, an endobariatric procedure is performed using endoscopy as in the gastric balloon example above. But besides simply placing a gastric balloon in the stomach, an endoscope can be fitted with surgical tools that offer more options. A great example of what the endoscope can do—and one of True You’s specialities—is called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG).
ESG is a non-surgical, incisionless, minimally invasive procedure that works in a way that is similar to a sleeve gastrectomy. Yet rather than removing part of the stomach through laparoscopic incisions, special surgical tools on the end of the scope allow the surgeon to close off a large portion of the stomach by suturing it shut from the inside. The entire procedure takes 30-45 minutes and is done while the patient is under sedation (as opposed to full anesthesia). All of this means that the patient will have a much shorter recovery time and a greatly reduced chance of complications.
At True You, we recognize that every weight loss journey is unique, and there are some people who may benefit from bariatric surgery. But all surgery has risks, and procedures like ESG offer a distinct alternative that can open up new possibilities. If you’d like to learn more about ESG or any of our other non-surgical weight loss solutions, please contact us today to request a consultation. We are dedicated to helping patients find the freedom they’ve been looking for with long term weight loss success.