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More than 1 billion people in the world are obese. In another 12 years, World Obesity Atlas 2023 says over 4 billion will be obese or overweight. That’s more than half of the world’s population at 51 per cent. The UAE also figures in the atlas, with 45 per cent of the adult population estimated to be obese by 2035, up from 27.8 per cent in 2016.

With obesity being a risk factor for several debilitating diseases, from diabetes and heart disease to cancers, the importance of weight loss is not lost on anyone. However, for some people, exercise and the right nutrition might not be enough to produce the desired result due to underlying health conditions. For them, Dr Hussam Mohamad Al Trabulsi, Specialist General Surgery at Medcare Hospital Al Safa, recommends bariatric surgery.

“Bariatric surgery is a weight loss surgery that involves reducing the size of the stomach or bypassing a part of the small intestine,” he explains. “In simple words, bariatric surgery changes the anatomy of the stomach to cause significant weight loss. We can divide bariatric interventions into two categories: non-invasive such as gastric balloon and endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, and invasive through laparoscopic surgery like gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass surgery, and adjustable gastric banding.”

In simple words, bariatric surgery changes the anatomy of the stomach to cause significant weight loss.

- Dr Hussam Mohamad Al Trabulsi, Specialist General Surgery at Medcare Hospital Al Safa

Gastric balloon procedure usually involves introducing a silicone balloon non-surgically into the stomach, which is then filled with saline to take up space. This leads to a feeling of satiety, limiting food intake. In endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, the doctor stitches the stomach up into a narrow tube restricting space for food.

Invasive interventions such as gastric sleeve surgery remove a large portion of the stomach while gastric bypass creates a small pouch from the stomach and connects it directly to the small intestine whereas in gastric banding, which is an adjustable and reversible surgical procedure, an inflatable band is placed around the stomach reducing its capacity.

Not for everyone

Bariatric surgery is not an easy solution for everyone who is unable to lose weight through exercise and diet. It is recommended only for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or a BMI of 35 or higher who have obesity-related health conditions.

“Each case is different, and patients need to be evaluated individually,” says Dr Al Trabulsi. “Individuals with medical conditions that make surgery risky or those who are unable to make the necessary lifestyle changes after surgery may not be good candidates for bariatric surgery.”

An individual’s medical history, their health condition and BMI among other factors decide the kind of bariatric procedure they can undergo. “A team of healthcare professionals, including a bariatric surgeon and dietician, must evaluate the patient before recommending the appropriate surgery type,” he adds.

With procedures becoming less invasive through the use of laparoscopic techniques and improvement in techniques themselves over time have led to better outcomes with fewer complications and reduction in recovery times.

However, like any surgery, bariatric surgery carries some risks, including bleeding, infection and blood clots, explains Dr Al Trabulsi. “The risks depend on the individual's health and the type of surgery. At Medcare Hospital Al Safa, the healthcare professionals evaluate the patient's risk factors and take measures to manage and minimise any potential risks. The state-of-the-art surgical suites further ensure proper care and risk management during bariatric surgery.”

Although the effectiveness of bariatric surgery largely depends on the individual, their medical history, and the type of surgery they undergo, studies have shown that it can result in significant, long-term weight loss as well as improvement in diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea and other obesity-related health conditions.

However, aftercare plays as critical a role as the surgery itself to ensure success.

“An important point to keep in mind for post-operative care is a strict post-operative diet plan,” explains Dr Al Trabulsi. “It is important to follow the guidelines provided by your surgeon and dietician to ensure proper healing and avoid complications. Hydration, avoiding strenuous activities and attending all follow-up appointments are crucial to proper aftercare and recovery.

“Taking nutritional supplements is another important part of aftercare that patients must remember. This is mainly to help prevent nutritional deficiencies.”

So, if you are struggling with health conditions because of your weight and have been unsuccessful in shedding kilos despite strenuous exercise and good diet, there’s still hope for you. With the full spectrum of bariatric procedures and top-of-the-line aftercare on offer, Medcare Hospital Al Safa helps you in the journey to weight loss that can last a lifetime and reduce the risk of developing life-threatening conditions.