Quick fix or long-term cure? Pros and cons of bariatric surgery

F1000 Med Rep. 2012;4:19. doi: 10.3410/M4-19. Epub 2012 Oct 2.

Abstract

The past decade has seen an enormous increase in the number of bariatric, or weight loss, operations performed. This trend is likely to continue, mirroring the epidemic of obesity around the world and its rising prevalence among children. Bariatric surgery is considered by many to be the most effective treatment for obesity in terms of maintenance of long-term weight loss and improvement in obesity-related comorbid conditions. Although overly simplified, the primary mechanisms of the surgical interventions currently utilized to treat obesity are the creation of a restrictive or malabsorptive bowel anatomy. Operations based on these mechanisms include the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band and laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy (considered primarily restrictive operations), the laparoscopic biliopancreatic diversion with or without a duodenal switch (primarily malabsorptive operation), and the laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (considered a combination restrictive and selective malabsorptive procedure). Each operation has pros and cons. Important considerations, for the patient and surgeon alike, in the decision to proceed with bariatric surgery include the technical aspects of the operation, postoperative complications including long-term nutritional problems, magnitude of initial and sustained weight loss desired, and correction of obesity-related comorbidities. Herein, the pros and cons of the contemporary laparoscopic bariatric operations are reviewed and ongoing controversies relating to bariatric surgery are discussed: appropriate patient selection, appropriate operation selection for an individual patient, surgeon selection, and how to measure success after surgery.