Anyone considering weight-loss surgery is going to have a lengthy list of questions, which is entirely appropriate. Chief among them relates to safety. Here’s the short answer – yes, weight-loss surgery, or metabolic surgery, is extremely safe. In fact, weight-loss surgery is safer than an appendectomy, a hernia repair, hysterectomy, and nearly every routine surgical procedure performed in the United States. What’s more, weight-loss surgery reduces risks going forward, which makes it safer than not undergoing the procedure when you take into consideration the reduced risks of heart attacks, diabetes complications, and other weight-related health problems that are avoided. Like any surgery, there are a few important points that make the procedure extremely safe and factors that you can influence to make your surgery especially safe. You can stack the deck in your favor by paying attention to these four things.
Let’s look at these a bit further. It goes without saying that experienced surgeons have lower rates of complications. That may be obvious to people in the surgical field or people who are familiar with the idea of 10,000 hours of practice for any skill leading to virtuosity. But for many in the lay public, it may not be obvious that someone who has performed 2000 of a given procedure is very likely to have a lower rate of problems than someone who has performed 200 of the same procedure. This is not to say that there are not some excellent outstanding young surgeons coming out of great training programs who will deliver terrific results, but if you are playing the odds, you would like experience. Just look at the peer reviewed surgical literature on “learning curve “to gain a sense of how important experience really is.
High-volume surgeon is similar, so these overlap. But try to imagine someone who performs 300 or 400 of a particular procedure every single year versus someone who performs 20 or 30 of the same procedure. The high volume, the repetition week-in and week-out means that not only does the surgeon hone every detail, but the center itself has honed a very safe, repeatable process. It means education and improvement of every member of the team, from the surgical assistant to the scrub tech, to the circulating nurse, to the anesthesiologist, to the recovery and postoperative floor nursing staff. Surgeons that do this kind of volume must do so with an extreme level of safety and success to continue serving that number of patients. In most cases, you will not give up personal attention or bedside manner if you choose carefully, but choose the doctor who does many cases successfully every week.
Choice of Procedure
Choice of procedure also influences safety. While all the major procedures are very safe in the United States at high-volume centers with experienced surgeons, there’s no doubt that the sleeve gastrectomy is the simplest and safest procedure. The sleeve has the lowest rates of both short-term and long-term complications including infection, leak, or bleeding. Choosing gastric bypass or duodenal switch is not wrong, but make extra sure that your surgeon does these routinely and well.
Choosing an accredited center also can add safety. In the United States, the accreditation process requires an enormous amount of dedication and effort by the center and the surgeon. Every single case is tracked and discussed, and every single complication is analyzed to improve and reduce future complications. The accreditation process also involves some expense and bureaucracy, so it’s not perfect, but you can stack the odds in your favor by sticking with an accredited center.
The Bottom Line
Metabolic surgery reduces the chances that a person will develop health problems in the years to come. Large, long-term studies show people live longer, healthier lives after metabolic surgery. Obesity is an environmental disease, meaning that environmental factors hijack our metabolic machinery. Surgery changes the tissues where the hormones are produced and triggers a long-term reset in the hormones that regulate body weight, blood sugar, and diabetes. It has become among the safest procedures performed in the country, based upon U.S. hospital data, with health benefits are profound and long-lasting.
If you have questions about weight-loss surgery, we’re here to help. Contact the Sasse Surgical team today to schedule a consultation.