Sleeve gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomy, also called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, is a surgical weight-loss procedure. This procedure is typically performed laparoscopically, which involves inserting small instruments through multiple small incisions in the upper abdomen. During sleeve gastrectomy, about 80% of the stomach is removed, leaving a tube-shaped stomach about the size and shape of a banana.

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Why it's done

Sleeve gastrectomy is done to help you lose excess weight and reduce your risk of potentially life-threatening weight-related health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Infertility

Sleeve gastrectomy is typically done only after you've tried to lose weight by improving your diet and exercise habits.

In general, sleeve gastrectomy surgery could be an option for you if:

  • Your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher (extreme obesity).
  • Your BMI is 35 to 39.9 (obesity), and you have a serious weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea. In some cases, you may qualify for certain types of weight-loss surgery if your BMI is 30 to 34 and you have serious weight-related health problems.

Risks

As with any major surgery, sleeve gastrectomy poses potential health risks, both in the short term and long term.

Risks associated with sleeve gastrectomy can include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Leaks from the cut edge of the stomach

Longer-term risks and complications of sleeve gastrectomy surgery can include:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Hernias
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Malnutrition
  • Vomiting

What you can expect

Sleeve gastrectomy is done in the hospital. Depending on your recovery, your hospital stay may last one to two nights.

During the procedure

The specifics of your surgery depend on your individual situation and the hospital's or doctor's practices. Some sleeve gastrectomies are done with traditional large (open) incisions in the abdomen. But sleeve gastrectomy is typically performed laparoscopically, which involves inserting small instruments through multiple small incisions in the upper abdomen.

You are given general anesthesia before your surgery begins. Anesthesia is medicine that keeps you asleep and comfortable during surgery.

To perform a sleeve gastrectomy, the surgeon creates a narrow sleeve by stapling the stomach vertically and removing the larger, curved part of the stomach.

Surgery usually takes one to two hours. After surgery, you awaken in a recovery room, where medical staff monitors you for any complications.

After the procedure

After sleeve gastrectomy, your diet begins with sugar-free, noncarbonated liquids for the first seven days, then progresses to pureed foods for three weeks, and finally to regular foods approximately four weeks after your surgery. You will be required to take a multivitamin twice a day, a calcium supplement once a day, and a vitamin B-12 injection once a month for life.

You'll have frequent medical checkups to monitor your health in the first several months after weight-loss surgery. You may need laboratory testing, bloodwork and various exams.

You may experience changes as your body reacts to the rapid weight loss in the first three to six months after sleeve gastrectomy, including:

  • Body aches
  • Feeling tired, as if you have the flu
  • Feeling cold
  • Dry skin
  • Hair thinning and hair loss
  • Mood changes

Results

Sleeve gastrectomy can provide long-term weight loss. It is possible to lose approximately 60%, or even more, of your excess weight within two years. In addition to weight loss, sleeve gastrectomy may improve or resolve conditions related to being overweight, including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke

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