Gastric sleeving is a form of weight loss surgery which is gaining momentum. The complete name for the procedure is Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy but it is widely known by the more common term “gastric sleeve” or “sleeve gastrectomy”. They all describe the same procedure.
Promoters of the procedure boast several specific advantages over other types of laparoscopic weight loss surgery. They will tell you that, unlike “lap-band” surgery, gastric sleeving does not include implanting a foreign object in your body, which also means that there is no need for later adjustment or filling after surgery. This means less followup medical visits and therefore, greater personal convenience and getting back to normal life much faster.
But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
First, let’s understand exactly what is involved and then discuss the implications. The procedure involves two things. The first is a significant reduction in the size of the stomach, while the second involves reducing the hormones that create a craving for food. The small intestine is unaltered, so digestion and absorption of nutrients is unhindered. However, your stomach normally has approximately a one litre capacity but this surgery can reduct that to about 100ml.
The impact on your eating habits could be quite significant. For example, if you once drunk from a normal size cup, you may have to purchase much smaller ones, because you may not be able to drink a whole cup. Your meal sizes may also diminish to almost a tenth of what you have been used to. That could amount to only a very small portion on a dinner plate.
This may seem attractive at first, but it could also mean you may not be able to physically consume sufficient food to provide normal nourishment and therefore, have to take nutritional supplements for the rest of your life.
Complications that can arise from the gastric sleeve procedure include internal leaking after the operation. This can cause septicemia which could be dangerous, if not life threatening.
The other important thing to remember, is that the procedure is irreversible. Once it’s done, you have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life.
The Gastric Sleeve Resection as a stand-alone weight loss surgery is a new approach and still considered experimental by many bariatric surgeons and insurance companies. It is covered by some insurance companies, but not by others. Typically, insurance companies do not cover a procedure that they consider experimental.
It is often followed by a gastric bypass or duodenal switch after the patient has lost a significant amount of weight. Called a “staged” approach to weight loss surgery, this makes the second procedure less risky than it would have been had it been the first and only procedure.
Doctors point out that no obesity surgery is a cure-all. It’s simply a tool to help patients cut portions and calories. The smaller stomach can enlarge again and weight loss can be regained.If this occurs the sleeve can be revised, but this requires another operation. This however is most uncommon and the reality is, that your “new” reduced stomach will be a lifelong blessing or curse.