Gastric Bypass | What is a gastric bypass?

© Pixland - Gastric Bypass | What is a gastric bypass?
© Pixland
Gastric Bypass

In plain and simple terms a Gastric Bypass is a type of weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) for people with potentially life-threatening obesity that will not respond to non-surgical treatments.

It is considered a last resort form of treatment that is an irreversible procedure, but sees a dramatic change in weight loss and health gain.

What does it involve?

A small pouch is created at the top of the stomach, this pouch is then connected directly to a section of the small intestine, therefore bypassing the rest of the stomach and bowel.

As a result it takes less food to make you feel full and you will also absorb fewer calories from the food you eat, resulting in dramatic weight loss.

Who qualifies for Gastric bypass surgery?

The NICE, the National Institue for Health and Clinical Excellence,and NHS guidelines:
  • If you have a BMI of 40 or above, i.e. morbidly obese.
  • OR a BMI of 35 or over with other health issues.
  • If you have failed to lose weight through all other appropriate non-surgical methods, such as diet and exercise.
  • You agree to commit to long-term post operation follow-up treatment.
  • You are fit and healthy enough to withstand the anesthetic (painkilling medication) and surgery.


Gastric Bypass surgery is usually done by laparoscopic surgery and uses a mixture of two main methods to achieve weight loss - restriction and malabsoption.

This means that effectively your stomach is made smaller, limiting the amount of food you consume to make you feel full, as well as altering the structure of your digestive system so you digest less food.


Usually you will be put on a strict liquid diet immediately after surgery, and solids will have to be slowly re-introduced.

The majority of people are well enough to leave hospital three to six days after surgery and resume normal activities within three to five weeks.

However, there is a lengthy diet and after-care program and major changes to lifestyle.
Things to avoid after a gastric bypass are foods that are high in sugar, this is because your bypass will affect the body digests sugar.

Also your small intestine will no longer be able to digest all the vitamins and minerals the body needs and so vitamin and mineral supplements are essential.

Risks and side effects:

With any surgery there is often a risk, especially in cases of morbid obesity where health issues are at a dangerously high level.

Complications immediately after surgery include:
  • Infection - affecting around 1 in 20 people.
  • Blood clots - commonly in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism), affecting around 1 in 100 people.
  • Internal bleeding - affecting around 1 in 100 people.
Other side effects:
  • Stomal stenosis - this is where the hole (stoma) that connects the stomach pouch to the small intestine becomes blocked by a piece of food.
  • Gallstones -around 1 in 12 people will develop gallstones after weight loss surgery, typically 10 months post operation.
  • Excess skin.
  • Psychosocial effects of surgery.
  • Death - 1 in 100 die shortly after a gastric bypass.
Considering the risks involved, Dr Chris Pring, one of the most sought after weight lost surgeons in the UK performing over 500 bariatric procedures says that, "for these patients who are saddled with health risks or have them coming round the corner the higher risk is to do nothing."

What are the costs?

Gastric Bypass surgery can be done through the NHS, but with high demand for this surgery you can expect a considerable waiting list.

If you want to opt for surgery privately, you can expect to pay £9,500-15,000.

Gastric Bypass - Expert Opinion

© Really Chris Pring
© Really Chris Pring
Dr Chris Pring -

Gastrointestinal Surgeon specializing in Weight Loss and General Surgery.

"Obesity shortens your life-span by eight/ten years and increase risks of other serious health issues. The Gastric Bypass procedure is all about reversing the health risks and letting people live longer and healthier lives.

The most frequent comment that we hear from patients when we ask do you have any regrets, they say I wish I’d done it years ago. A recent patient was in her mid-thirties, morbidly obese and infertile. She had a gastric bypass- she lost 7 stone in 7 months, and then fell pregnant. 

So a year ago she was a morbidly obese, infertile lady in a long term relationship fast-forward a year, she’s lost 7 stone she’s healthy, pregnant and in a happy marriage! These are the kind of success stories that result from bariatric surgery."

More Information:

You can always go to your local GP for more information about weight loss surgery or contact the British Obesity & Metabolic Surgery Society, BOMSS.

Or if you want more information from the comfort of your own home, tune into Dr Chris Pring's new television venture Fat Surgeons, following the journey of real people benefiting from this life altering surgery.

Providing a unique glimpse into the world of weight loss surgery, Fat Surgeons is new and exclusive compulsive viewing on Really, Tuesdays at 9pm from 10th January 2012 (Sky 248, Virgin 267, Freeview 20).


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