Bariatric, or weight loss surgery, is indicated for patients who are morbidly obese and already have tried diets, exercise, and other non-surgical means of losing weight. The surgery helps patients eat less through a variety of mechanisms that differ with the type of procedure done. Although the definition varies depending on the insurance company, in general a person is a candidate for weight loss surgery if he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40. Patients with a BMI of at least 35 may qualify if they have additional conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, or degenerative joint disease. Candidates for bariatric surgery must meet certain goals and requirements before surgerycan be approved, and typically it requires a serious commitment to substantial lifestyle changes.
The three most common types of weight loss surgery are gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding. A gastric bypass is performed by creating a small pouch out of the stomach and routing the gastrointestinal tract to this pouch, so that food empties into the pouch and bypasses the remainder of the stomach and first portion of the intestine, greatly limiting the amount of time the food spends in the digestive tract. A sleeve gastrectomy is performed by removing about 80% of the stomach, leaving an area approximately the size of a banana and leading to a diminished appetite. Gastric banding involves placing an inflatable belt around the top of the stomach to reduce the flow of food into the stomach.
Obesity is a medical problem that can have wide-ranging mental and physical effects on a person. If you or a loved one has struggled with obesity for some time and has tried unsuccessfully to combine a healthy diet with exercise to lose weight, UAB Medicine is the place to turn. Led by Richard Stahl, MD, and Jayleen Grams, MD, the bariatric surgery program at UAB Medicine has been performing weight-loss procedures for more than 30 years, and it is the first American College of Surgeons Level 1 Bariatric Surgery Center in Alabama. This history, combined with our standing as a respected academic medical center, puts UAB Medicine at the forefront of weight-loss surgery.
Complicated pre- and post-operative bariatric patients frequently are referred here, which gives us a unique perspective on weight-loss surgery, its risks, and its limitations. We do not view surgery as a quick fix for weight loss, nor should it be a patient’s first consideration when contemplating weight-loss methods. A multidisciplinary approach involving surgery, varied medical specialists, nutrition, psychology, and physical therapy is used in the evaluation and management of a patient’s obesity. An active and ongoing weight-loss support group meets regularly and is open to all patients, whether they have had surgery or are considering it.
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Meet the bariatric surgery team and learn more about the types of operations, goals, risks, overall process and if you may be a candidate.
Bariatric Surgey Program Overview
Discover how three patients used weight loss surgery to overcome their struggle with obesity and take back their lives
How Obesity Surgery Helps People Reclaim Their Lives
Led by Richard Stahl, MD, and Jayleen Grams, MD, the bariatric surgery program at UAB Medicine has been performing weight-loss procedures for more than 30 years, and it is the first American College of Surgeons Level 1 Bariatric Surgery Center in Alabama. This history, combined with our standing as a respected academic medical center, puts UAB Medicine at the forefront of weight-loss surgery.
UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.View Clinical Trials
Bariatric Surgery Gives Janice a Second Chance at Life
|JANICE - BEFORE
||JANICE - AFTER
For me, bariatric surgery was not just a solution, it was a life choice. My reason for having the surgery was to give me a second chance at life. I had been overweight and struggling against weight and depression problems for a long time, and my weight was affecting my health and my ability to live life. It’s something I struggled with for a long time. The death of my mother was the moment I decided I wanted to live life, to see my children and grandchildren grow up. I knew in order for this change to happen I needed to change my life for the better.
I struggled with a lot of medical problems that stemmed from being overweight. I had been diagnosed with diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, back problems and finally heart trouble. I started with diets and gradually moved to medication. No matter how much weight I lost it always came back. The combination of my medical problems and medication was affecting my energy, my mobility, and mostly my ability to live life.
In 2007 I lost my mother. Her death gave me the spark of encouragement that made me want to change my life for the better. I wanted to be able to see my children and great grandchildren grow up, and I knew that if I didn’t change my weight then that couldn’t happen. Once I decided to turn my weight around, I began taking the steps toward approval for surgery. Before I could be a candidate for bariatric surgery, I needed to come off of the medicines I was on. In December of 2007, I completed rehab, but only to find myself subject to heart problems. Finally in the spring of 2009, I was approved for the bariatric surgery.
In 2009, my primary care physician recommended me as a candidate for bariatric surgery. I immediately began the process for insurance qualification. In October of 2009, I was approved. On December 15, 2009, Dr. Jayleen Grams performed my gastric bypass surgery at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL.
I wasn’t worried about having the surgery. I knew that I needed something major to change my life so that I felt like I was living again. The scary thing for me was not being able to live. I knew if I did everything Dr. Grams told me to do that the surgery would be a success.
Just the idea of a successful surgery kept me optimistic during the entire process. Once I was released from the hospital, my recovery began. I had some complications post-op. I had a staple that had come loose, but Dr. Grams quickly fixed it and the road to recovery began again.
As soon as I got home from the hospital, my weight loss began. I lost between 20 and 25 pounds a month. After the first couple of months, my weight loss slowed to around two to three pounds a week. At 15 months, I reached my program goal of 130 pounds. To date, I’ve lost 147 pounds, and my body mass index has dropped from 44.2 to 21. My blood pressure got better, and I regained strength and energy that I didn’t know I had. My diabetes and heart troubles have disappeared. Losing the weight would not have been possible without the wonderful support groups I attended. I go to one to two support groups a month.
Having the surgery has been a blessing. Before, I wasn’t able to walk a few steps without running out of breath, but now I’m able to run with my grandchildren. I even go kayaking with my youngest son. Being able to look in the mirror and not cry anymore leaves me speechless. I don’t feel the need to refuse to see what my reflection looks like. I’m almost completely off of medications other than my gastric vitamins. I expected the surgery to change my life, but I never thought that I would have the life I do now.
I’m living a healthy life, and I enjoy living again. I’m not held in the prison of my bed any longer.
My advice to anyone looking to have gastric bypass is to think about the reasons you’re having surgery. Surgery shouldn’t be looked at as an instant fix. The qualification process alone can take several months. You should think about how your life will change before and after having gastric bypass. You shouldn’t look at gastric bypass as a go-to solution, but instead as a stepping stone to help you reach those long term goals that you have for yourself.
Surgery is just one step in the process. You should make sure that you follow the proper procedures so that you don’t end up in the same condition where you started. A key to helping you know what to look forward to and to learn what you need is to utilize support groups. You can ask pre- and post-op patients questions to help you learn what to expect.
As long as you follow the proper steps, gastric bypass can be a wonderful tool to help you live a better life. It, along with the program, will help you maintain your health. It reduced my health problems and gave me back years of my life. It has given me a second chance at a better life for me and my family.