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Bariatric surgery at Alaska Regional Hospital

Alaska Regional Hospital offers a comprehensive surgical program that ensures the highest level of patient safety and support throughout your weight loss journey. Our board-certified bariatric surgeons bring over 58 years of combined experience and are dedicated to treating morbid or severe obesity and have performed over 6,000 laparoscopic weight loss surgery procedures to date, making them the most experienced in Alaska.

Are You a Candidate for Weight Loss Surgery?

Find out if you are a candidate for weight-loss surgery based on any current health care conditions and how your weight affects your quality of life.

Understanding obesity

Obesity is a disease affecting about 93 million American adults. Obesity is commonly measured using the body mass index (BMI), which is calculated using height and weight. Studies show that the risk for diseases and death increase as BMI increases.

Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. Clinically severe obesity is a BMI of greater than 35 if there are other medical conditions present or a BMI of 40 or higher. People with clinically severe obesity may be good candidates for weight loss surgery.

Calculate Your BMI

Research has shown that causes of obesity may include genetics, the environment, learned behaviors and hormones, specifically leptin and ghrelin. Unfortunately, studies have demonstrated that dieting and exercise programs may have a limited ability to provide effective, long-term relief.

It is important to remember that all current medical interventions, including weight loss surgery, should not be considered medical cures. The control of excess weight is something patients must work at their entire lives.

Benefits of bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery may benefit people struggling with morbid obesity. Studies show that bariatric surgery patients are living longer lives of higher quality as it is an effective weight loss tool and treatment for obesity-related health conditions.

The risk of an early death for an obese person is twice that of a non-obese person, according to recent studies. Morbid obesity can shorten lives and cause life-threatening health problems like diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Weight loss surgery helps decrease your chances of these and other conditions, including sleep apnea and arthritis. With treatment, good health and a longer life are much more likely.

Risks of bariatric surgery

All surgeries and medical procedures carry risk. Please talk to your doctor, other weight loss surgery patients and your loved ones to understand the benefits and risks.

Gastric bypass

The Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass is the most common and successful type of weight loss surgery and considered the gold standard of weight loss procedures. It may improve conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

A small stomach pouch is created to restrict food intake. Next, a Y-shaped section of the small intestine is attached to the pouch to allow food to bypass the lower stomach, the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine), and the first portion of the jejunum (the second segment of the small intestine). This bypass reduces the amount of calories and nutrients the body absorbs, and is both non-reversible and non-adjustable.

On average, over half of the gastric bypass patients lose 70% or more of their extra weight and then start to maintain their weight. Long-term success depends on lifestyle changes related to eating and food selection, which is taught in the follow-up period after surgery.

Duodenal switch

The duodenal switch, also called the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, is the most powerful weight loss surgeries available. It is performed by permanently removing a portion of the stomach making it about the size and shape of a banana, also known as a sleeve gastrectomy.

This procedure promotes weight loss primarily through malabsorption, accomplished by bypassing part of the small intestine where food and digestive enzymes meet.

Sleeve gastrectomy

The vertical sleeve gastrectomy is a restrictive form of weight-loss surgery in which approximately 85% of the stomach is removed, leaving a cylindrical or sleeve-shaped stomach - about the size of a banana. The outlet valve and nerves to the stomach remain intact and function is preserved, even though the stomach is drastically reduced in size.

The gastric sleeve results in fewer restrictions on the foods that patients can consume after surgery, although the quantity of food eaten is still considerably reduced. It can be performed laparoscopically, or through small incisions, which helps speed recovery.

For obese patients with a relatively low BMI, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy may be a good option, especially where existing conditions like anemia or Crohn's disease prevent other types of weight loss surgery.

Adjustable gastric band or lap band

The Adjustable Gastric Band involves an inflatable band that is affixed around the upper portion of the stomach, creating a small stomach pouch above the band, and the rest of the stomach below the band.

With the smaller stomach pouch, eating a small amount of food will satisfy hunger and promote the feeling of fullness. The feeling of fullness depends upon the size of the opening between the pouch and the remainder of the stomach created by the gastric band. The size of the stomach opening can be adjusted by filling the band with sterile saline, which is injected through a port placed under the skin.

Reducing the size of the opening is done gradually over time with repeated adjustments or “fills.” The band works by restricting how much food can be consumed per meal and by restricting the emptying of the food through the band. Food is digested and absorbed normally.

The clinical impact of the band seems to be that it reduces hunger thereby decreasing the amount of consumed calories.