Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Is Weight Loss Surgery Too Risky?
What are the negative factors involved in gastric bypass operations? Would it be possible to have children if a young woman elected to have the surgery?
Answer (Published 2/10/2004)

Two operations are performed to treat morbid obesity, which is roughly defined as weighing 100 pounds or more above your ideal weight. One is vertical banded gastroplexy, popularly known as "stomach stapling." The other is gastric bypass (more precisely, the Roux-en-Y procedure). Gastric bypass has become the gold standard of therapy because of the limitations of stomach stapling, which result in less weight loss than the bypass procedure and can fail over time, leading to regained weight or the need for repeat surgery.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

Using the bypass procedure, surgeons divide the stomach into unequal parts, with the small part forming a pouch that limits how much one can eat or drink at a given time. This pouch is then connected to the small intestine beyond the area where most food usually is absorbed.

In addition to morbid obesity, the procedure is considered appropriate only for those who are significantly overweight and have a life-threatening condition such as heart disease, diabetes or severe sleep apnea.

The surgery may be lifesaving for those who haven't been able to lose weight any other way despite repeated attempts. Within the first 18 to 24 months after the operation, most patients lose weight quickly and many maintain a long-term weight loss of as much as 100 pounds. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in one study blood sugar levels in 83 percent of obese patients with diabetes returned to normal after surgery.

Women in their reproductive years who want to have children can do so after the surgery but should wait until their weight stabilizes since rapid weight loss and the nutritional deficiencies that can occur after surgery may harm a developing fetus.

Here are the principal risks of the surgery:


  • Between 10 and 20 percent of patients will require follow-up operations to correct complications, usually an abdominal hernia. Less common complications include breakdown of the staple line and stretched stomach outlets. There are also risks of bowel obstruction and leaking or narrowing of the site where the stomach pouch is reconnected to the small intestine.
  • Some patients develop gallstones, which are always a risk with rapid weight loss. Taking supplemental bile salts for the first six months after surgery can help prevent gallstones.
  • Nearly 30 percent of patients develop such nutritional deficiencies as anemia, osteoporosis and metabolic bone diseases. These problems can usually be avoided by taking the recommended supplements of iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and folic acid, which you will need to continue for the rest of your life.


Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here