Weight Loss Center

Weight Loss Health Guide

HomeEmailPrintPhoneSite Map

Gastric bypass surgery

How it works

Gastric bypass is surgery to help with weight loss. It helps you lose weight by changing how your stomach and small intestine handle the food you eat.

  • After surgery, your stomach will be much smaller.
  • You will feel full or satisfied with less food.
  • The food you eat will no longer go into some parts of your stomach and small intestine that break down food. This surgery is also called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

What happens during surgery?

During surgery, your surgeon will:

  • Your stomach is divided with staples into 2 parts.
  • The first part is very small, about the size of a golf ball. This small stomach is called the pouch. The second part of the stomach is much bigger, but food cannot go into it.
  • The small intestine is connected to the pouch to re-route food around the big stomach.
  • The pouch can hold only a small amount of food, so if you eat too much or too fast you will throw up.

This surgery takes about 2 hours.

Laparoscopic surgery

Most of the time, the surgery is done using a tiny camera that is placed in your belly. This type of surgery is called laparoscopy. The camera allows your surgeon to see inside your belly. In this surgery your surgeon will:

  • Make 5 - 6 small incisions (cuts) in your belly.
  • Through these small cuts, the surgeon will place a camera and the instruments to perform the surgery.
  • The camera is connected to a TV monitor, and the surgeon can see inside your belly.

Open surgery

Sometimes, the surgeon will not be able to perform the surgery through a small incision and will need to make a large surgical cut (incision) to open up your belly.

The most common reason that you may need open surgery is if you have had many abdominal surgeries in the past. This is because you may have scar tissue (adhesions) from earlier surgery.

A large surgical cut will:

  • Be more painful
  • Keep you in the hospital longer
  • Have a longer recovery time
  • Have a greater chance of infection in the wound
  • Have a greater chance of a hernia in the wound

What to expect after surgery

Most people stay in the hospital for 2 days after open surgery.

You may have a drain (tube) coming from your belly. It will come out of your side and will drain fluids that build up in your belly. The drain tube will usually be removed before you leave the hospital.

You may need to take off work for 3 - 4 weeks. However, if your job does not involve too much physical activity, you may be able to return to work if sooner.

See Understanding life after bariatric surgery for more information about how eating and other parts of your life will change after this surgery.

Things to think about

  • Recovery after gastric bypass is usually more difficult, especially if open surgery is done.
  • After surgery, your body may not absorb important vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and others. To avoid problems such as brittle bones (osteoporosis) and low blood count (anemia), you will need to take vitamin supplements for the rest of your life.
  • Total weight loss after bypass surgery is usually higher than after gastric banding.
  • In order to prevent weight regain after gastric bypass surgery, you will need to follow a diet and exercise program for the rest of your life.

See also:

Rate This Page
Tell Us
What You Think...
Review Date: 6/4/2012

Reviewed By: Alex Nagle, MD, Director of Bariatric Surgery, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Gastrointestinal & Oncologic Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

View References: View References

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only - they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.