Weight-Loss Surgery

Morbid obesity is a complex, chronic disease. Being obese or morbidly obese can cause negative health conditions. These conditions - whether alone or in combination - can significantly impact your quality of life and reduce your life expectancy.

Weight-loss surgery (also called bariatric surgery) is a life-altering decision.

Weight-loss surgery procedures provide the best long-term results when all other therapies have failed.

Weight-loss surgery is not a "magic wand" procedure, but complements diet and exercise in helping overweight patients achieve long-term health and wellness goals.

Your complete health is important to us. Because weight-loss surgery is life changing, the procedure involves more than the surgery itself. It also involves:

  • Counseling
  • Long-term coordination of care
  • Nutritional and physical evaluations
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Support groups

Types of Weight Loss Surgeries

MaineGeneral's Bariatric Center provides individuals who are obese or morbidly obese with gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgical options to help them along a lifelong path of improved health.

You will be part of our comprehensive program which includes personal trainers, exercise classes and weekly support groups.

Gastric Bypass

Gastric bypass surgery is both a restriction and malabsorption procedure.

  • By making a small stomach pouch, the amount of food you can eat at any one time is restricted.
  • Secondly, bypassing a portion of the gastrointestinal tract makes your body less efficient at absorbing nutrients (calories).
  • The result is a daily intake of calories less than the amount your body requires, leading to effective weight loss.
  • Most patients do not feel hungry after this procedure. Success is achieved with your simultaneous change in eating patterns.
  • Recovery time for patients who have a gastric bypass procedure is usually two weeks.

Read our Gastric Bypass Patient Handbook

Gastric Sleeve

Gastric sleeve surgery — also called sleeve gastrectomy — is performed laparoscopically.

  • The surgeon makes small cuts instead of one large incision.
  • The surgeon inserts a viewing tube with a small camera (laparoscope) and other tiny instruments into these small incisions to remove part of the stomach.
  • The tube-shaped stomach that is left is sealed closed with staples.
  • In some cases, gastric sleeve surgery may be followed by gastric bypass surgery after the patient has lost a significant amount of weight.
  • This “staged” approach to weight-loss surgery makes the second procedure less risky than it would have been if it was the first and only procedure.
  • The second surgery usually occurs within six to 18 months, depending on the patient’s weight loss.

Are You a Candidate for Weight-Loss Surgery?

Weight-loss surgery candidates usually have a BMI greater than 40, which means being overweight by 100 pounds or more for men or 80 pounds or more for women.

Surgery also may be an option if you have a BMI between 35 and 40 and suffer from chronic or life-threatening complications from your obesity.

Your BMI is a measurement that will help you determine if you're a candidate for weight-loss surgery.

Use the Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator

Risks and Benefits

All procedures have certain risks and benefits, which we want you to understand.

Benefits You May Experience

  • Most patients lose weight rapidly and continue to do so for 18 to 24 months.
  • Most patients will lose and keep off 50 to 80 percent of their excess weight.
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol problems, acid reflux disease and sleep apnea commonly improve or completely resolve after the surgery.
  • As you lose weight, your endurance for work, family and daily activities will improve.

Risks and Complications

No major surgery is without risk and there is a 0.5 percent mortality (death) rate nationally for weight-loss surgery. Risks for gastric sleeve and gastric bypass include:

  • Blood clots in the lungs;
  • Complications from anesthesia and medications;
  • Deep vein thrombosis; and
  • Wound infection.

Your surgeon will discuss all the risks for each procedure at your initial consult.

Pre-Surgery Process

Prospective patients must undergo a rigorous screening process that includes psychiatric and nutritional evaluation and counseling. It includes the following steps:

  • Referral by your primary care provider and attendance at an informational session before your first surgical consult.
  • Referral for psychiatric and nutrition evaluations and at least two nutrition counseling sessions after your first consult. The number of dietary visits is determined by your insurance coverage.
  • A preauthorization request form completed by the Bariatric Center staff to your insurance company after we receive the necessary evaluation and counseling documentation.
  • All prospective patients should contact their insurance provider to determine how much of the cost will be covered by their plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is obesity?

Obesity is an excess accumulation of body fat that can result in illness or even death. According to the National Institutes of Health, 20 percent or more over ideal body weight is where excess weight becomes a health risk and a person is considered obese.

Obesity becomes "morbid" when it greatly increases the risk of one or more obesity-related health conditions or serious diseases that can lead to significant physical disability or death.

What is the difference between being overweight and being obese?
"Overweight" is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29 and obesity is defined as a BMI equal to or higher than 30. Morbid obesity is defined as being 100 lbs. or more over ideal body weight or having a BMI of 40 or higher.

What causes obesity/morbid obesity?

The causes are multiple and complex. Studies indicate that if a person is genetically predisposed to obesity, efforts such as dieting and exercise have limited ability to provide long-term success.

You should not consider current medical interventions, including surgery, as cures for obesity. They are attempts to reduce the effects of excessive weight and alleviate serious physical, emotional and social consequences, along with healthy eating and exercise habits.

Why surgery?

Surgery is the only proven, consistently effective treatment for morbid obesity.

A 2004 landmark study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found bariatric surgery improved or resolved type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and high cholesterol in most morbidly obese patients.

Patients involved in the study had lost 55 to 70 percent of their excess weight one year after bariatric surgery.

How does bariatric surgery affect weight loss?

Weight loss following bariatric surgery results from limiting how much the stomach can hold. This type of surgery also delays emptying of the stomach (gastric pouch).

Surgical and bypass procedures are often combined to limit calorie and nutrient absorption and may lead to altered food choices.

What are the benefits?

Most patients lose weight rapidly immediately after surgery and continue to lose for the next 18 to 24 months. While most patients then start to regain some lost weight, few regain it all. Bariatric surgery also improves most obesity-related health conditions.

What are the risks?

No major surgery is without risk and there is a 0.5 percent mortality (death) rate nationally for weight loss surgery. Risks for both gastric sleeve and gastric bypass include:
  • Blood clots in the lungs;

  • Complications from anesthesia and medications;

  • Deep vein thrombosis; and

  • Wound infection.
Other risks for each procedure will be discussed at your first consult with one of our surgeons.

Which surgeries does the Bariatric Center provide?

We offer gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgical options. Choosing the right surgery involves many factors, including your preference and eating habits.The choice is something best discussed with your potential surgeon.

What commitment is required from prospective surgery candidates?

Before surgery is approved, you must show proof that attempts at dietary weight loss have been ineffective.

Our surgeons require patients to demonstrate serious motivation and a clear understanding of the extensive dietary, exercise and medical guidelines they must follow after having weight-loss surgery. In addition, you must be prepared to commit to long-term follow-up care.

Weight-Loss Support Groups

All bariatric surgery patients must attend at least three support group meetings before their procedure.

The groups are for current and prospective Bariatric Center patients and family members. Due to the nature of discussions, the meetings are for adults only.

The support groups offer educational information from our expert staff in nutrition, exercise, the surgical process and emotional support.

Helpful Resources

Quality Data

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Click the Patient Experience button below for information about our level of care based on medical practice survey responses from patients.

Patient Experience

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Phone: (207) 626-1078

Fax: (207) 622-2398