Your Health: Research Suggests Reflux May Be A Problem For Sleeve Patients
Published November 14th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It can be lifesaving surgery, but not without risk. Gastric sleeve surgery is quickly becoming a popular choice for those looking to lose weight, but doctors say it doesn't fix everything.
And once they've had the surgery, debilitating side effects are still a real possibility. Doctors at UF Health are researching this surgery to see if, down the line, it's really worth going under the knife.
"It was hard of course because it was a total change in my diet, a total change in my eating habit," Williston resident Diranda Gross says.
Gross decided to have weight loss surgery after she saw it work for a family member.
"Although I had tried to do it on my own, it was not working or it was short lived," she says, "I wanted to get to where I was healthy and would be around for my daughter."
She chose to have laproscopic sleeve gastrectomy or gastric sleeve surgery, a procedure in which a portion of the stomach is removed that prevents you from eating large amounts of food.
"This is the only surgery I perform that takes care of multiple medical problems," Dr. Kfir Ben-David says.
Ben-David is a bariatric surgeon at UF Health, and one of several surgeons who work with patients like Gross. Patients meet with a team of nutritions, psychiatrists, and surgeons before ever seeing an operating room.
"Surgery is just a tool that provides them the ability and minimizes their hunger, but the rest has to do with educating the patient and making sure they're compliant with their diet," Ben-David says.
There are some potential downsides, with any major surgery you have the risk of complications. But, with gastric sleeve surgery, Dr. Ben-David noticed more of his patients having one particular problem.
"A good portion often have reflux following this type of procedure," he says.
Gastroesophegal reflux is typically a comorbidity of obesity that decreases with weight loss, but research from UF Health found the gastric sleeve may cause it to occur or increase in some patients, even after losing weight. In most cases the reflux is treatable with medication. But he says in a very small number of patients, it can be so debilitating they end up changing the sleeve into a traditional Roux en Y gastric bypass.
"I think whether you have the sleeve gasterectomy or the Roux en Y bypass, it's important to know this is a lifetime commitment for the patient," Ben-David says, "that the risks of the surgeries are the same and the requirements for post operative care should be the same."
Gross says she's been fortunate not to experience reflux as she's lost weight, but says even if she had, she still woudn't regret the surgery.
Bariatric surgery has been the subject of criticism from some who say it's cheating to lose weight. But doctors say these procedures are designed to get weight off quickly to treat deadly comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension. Without proper diet and exercise, patients can gain the weight back.
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