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Learning About Weight-Loss (Bariatric) Surgery

What is weight-loss surgery?

Bariatric surgery is surgery to help you lose weight. This type of surgery is only used for people who are very overweight and have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise.

This surgery makes the stomach smaller. Some types of surgery also change the connection between your stomach and intestines.

Having weight-loss surgery is a big step. After surgery, you'll need to make new, lifelong changes in how you eat and drink.

How is weight-loss surgery done?

Bariatric surgery may be either "open" or "laparoscopic." Open surgery is done through a large cut (incision) in the belly. Open surgery may not be available in some areas. Laparoscopic surgery is done through several small cuts. The doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other surgical tools through small cuts in your belly. The doctor is able to see your organs with the scope. There are different types of bariatric surgery.

Gastric sleeve surgery

The surgery is usually done through several small incisions in the belly. The doctor removes more than half of your stomach. This leaves a thin sleeve, or tube, that is about the size of a banana. Because part of your stomach has been removed, this can't be reversed.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery

Roux-en-Y (say "roo-en-why") surgery changes the connection between the stomach and the intestines.

The doctor separates a section of your stomach from the rest of your stomach. This makes a small pouch. The new pouch will hold the food you eat. The doctor connects the stomach pouch to the middle part of the small intestine.

Gastric banding surgery

The surgery is usually done through several small incisions in the belly. The doctor wraps a band around the upper part of the stomach. This creates a small pouch. The small size of the pouch means that you will get full after you eat just a small amount of food. The doctor can inflate or deflate the band to adjust the size. This lets the doctor adjust how quickly food passes from the new pouch into the stomach. It does not change the connection between the stomach and the intestines.

What can you expect after the surgery?

You may stay in the hospital for one or more days after the surgery. How long you stay depends on the type of surgery you had.

Most people need 2 to 4 weeks before they are ready to get back to their usual routine.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions about what to eat after the surgery. You'll start with only small amounts of soft foods and liquids. Bit by bit, you will be able to eat more solid foods. Your doctor may advise you to work with a dietitian. This way you'll be sure to get enough protein, vitamins, and minerals while you are losing weight. Even with a healthy diet, you may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements.

After surgery, you will not be able to eat very much at one time. You will get full quickly. Try not to eat too much at one time or eat foods that are high in fat or sugar. If you do, you may vomit, get stomach pain, or have diarrhea.

Weight loss

You probably will lose weight very quickly in the first few months after surgery. As time goes on, your weight loss will slow down. You will have regular doctor visits to check how you are doing.


It is common to have many emotions after this surgery. You may feel happy or excited as you begin to lose weight. But you may also feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the changes that you have to make in your diet, activity, and lifestyle. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns or questions.

Think of bariatric surgery as a tool to help you lose weight. It isn't an instant fix. You will still need to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. This will help you reach your weight goal and avoid regaining the weight you lose.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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