Making the decision on whether or not to have gastric sleeve surgery can be a difficult one, especially if you’re not entirely sure what it involves and what the benefits are. With so much information floating around the internet, it can be tricky to find exactly what you’re looking for in the most basic and easy-to-understand terms.

Let’s break it down.

What is a gastrectomy?

Put simply, a gastrectomy is the removal of a portion of the stomach. Generally speaking, we’re talking about a partial gastrectomy, where the lower half is removed, or a sleeve gastrectomy, which is the partial removal of only the left side of the stomach. A sleeve gastrectomy is the most commonly performed bariatric surgery in Australia.

In terms of weight loss, a gastrectomy is a great option for those who have had a prolonged struggle to lose weight. It makes up approximately 70% of bariatric surgeries in Australia, with almost 12,000 sleeve gastrectomies performed in the 2019/2020 financial year. Sleeve gastrectomies are performed laparoscopically, meaning they are a restrictive procedure with low surgical risk.

Basically, during a sleeve gastrectomy the size of your stomach is reduced – the portion of your stomach that produces hunger hormones (Gherlin) is removed, meaning you feel fuller more quickly, and therefore eat fewer calories. Generally, 70%-80% of the stomach is removed via the keyhole.

Who’s eligible?

A sleeve gastrectomy is usually offered to those who are obese with a BMI of over 40, or those with a BMI over 35 with other health problems. Generally, you’ll be given other weight loss methods to try prior to getting bariatric surgery, such as certain lifestyle changes.

What are the benefits?

Apart from the ability to eat fewer calories and feel fuller more quickly, resulting in weight loss, there are a bunch of other benefits to getting a sleeve gastrectomy.

A sleeve gastrectomy can result in:

  • Better cardiovascular health. A sleeve gastrectomy lessens your risk of coronary heart disease. With the resulting weight loss from the surgery, your risk of stroke, hypertension, and myocardial infarction also decreases.
  • Remission for type 2 diabetes. This is usually in the long-term and can help those living with type 2 diabetes to go insulin-free for several years after the surgery takes place.
  • Preventing sleep apnea. Achieving a healthy weight often means those living with sleep apnea can stop using a CPAP machine.
  • Relief of joint pain, due to weight loss.
  • Fertility improvement
  • Relief of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, due to losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle.

How do I prepare for a sleeve gastrectomy?

Generally, patients remain in the hospital for 1-2 weeks after a sleeve gastrectomy – it depends on your body and how it recovers. During this time, you will be fed through a tube until you are ready to transition to eating as usual.

Life after a sleeve gastrectomy

Immediately after surgery, you will find yourself on a liquid diet, which will slowly progress into solid food across a few different stages. Portions will be much smaller, and you’ll be avoiding high fiber foods.

Your lifestyle will change significantly after a sleeve gastrectomy. In order to lose weight and keep the weight off, you’ll need to follow dietary guidelines set by your doctor. This includes supplements and vitamins that you will need to take.

Part of your post-surgery plan will also involve incorporating exercise into your everyday life. Your doctor will go through all of this with you.

Are there risks?

Like any surgery, there are risks involved. These will all be outlined by your surgeon during the consultation stage. As such, it’s important to give your doctor a detailed medical history so that they are aware, as well as outlining any medications you may be on.


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