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The Difference Between Weight Loss Surgery and Metabolic Surgery

Simply put, the term “weight loss surgery” does not fully or accurately describe the benefits of the bariatric procedures we offer. Most patients’ first goal is to lose weight, but for us as clinicians, we are more concerned with the resolution of life shortening and debilitating diseases associated with morbid obesity such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, certain forms of cancer and much more. As a result, there is a significant push in the clinical realm toward renaming weight loss surgery as “metabolic surgery.” Why? Because the surgeries we perform, including the gastric sleeve and the gastric bypass, have a broad effect on our patients’ metabolisms and metabolic health, which in turn has a profound effect on their overall health.

And while patients may indeed lose between 60 and 80% (or even more) of their excess body weight, depending on the procedure they ultimately choose, they will also improve or eliminate a host of diseases. Some of these include:

  • Type 2 diabetes also known as diabetes mellitus, known as the silent killer. Millions of Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes and millions more are unaware that they have the disease. Diabetes can cause a host of problems ranging from poor blood flow that can ultimately lead to neuropathy and even amputation to problems including glaucoma and cardiovascular issues.
  • Sleep apnea is a condition in which patients’ breathing is restricted or completely cut off for a period of time during sleep. Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea which is often characterized by extremely loud snoring and pauses in breathing at night. While this may begin as a nuisance for the patient’s partner, it can quickly develop into a serious condition that can lead to problems with alertness during the day leading to accidents and even cardiovascular issues.
  • Obesity has also been definitively linked to various forms of cancer. Beyond esophageal, stomach and colon cancer, patients are at a higher risk for uterine and breast cancer. Not only is the risk of cancer higher, but the severity of cancer can be worse as well.
  • We also know that obesity can contribute to the severity of infectious disease. COVID-19 is one of the most obvious and recent manifestations of this obesity related problem. In fact, obesity was named a significant risk for complications in patients with COVID-19.

Ultimately, when we look at obesity, we can see that the disease affects virtually every part of the body and every bodily process. This is why calling it metabolic surgery creates a small but important mindset shift in patients who are experiencing these many diseases associated with obesity and also of medical providers looking for options to help their patients.