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What is Sleeve Gastrectomy?

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What is Sleeve Gastrectomy?

Sleeve gastrectomy, also known as vertical sleeve gastrectomy or gastric sleeve surgery, is a surgical weight loss procedure that involves removing a large portion of the stomach to create a smaller, sleeve-shaped stomach. This procedure is typically performed on individuals who are severely obese and have not been able to lose weight through diet and exercise alone.

During the sleeve gastrectomy procedure, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the abdomen and insert a laparoscope, a small camera that allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen. The surgeon will then use specialized surgical instruments to remove approximately 80% of the stomach, leaving behind a sleeve-shaped stomach that is roughly the size and shape of a banana.

The smaller stomach size achieved through sleeve gastrectomy limits the amount of food that can be consumed at one time, leading to a feeling of fullness and satiety with smaller meals. Additionally, the procedure removes the portion of the stomach that produces the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating hunger. This reduction in ghrelin production can help to reduce appetite and food cravings, making it easier for individuals to stick to a healthy diet and lose weight.

Sleeve gastrectomy is a relatively new weight loss procedure, having only been introduced in the early 2000s. However, it has quickly become one of the most popular bariatric surgery procedures, with over 200,000 sleeve gastrectomies performed worldwide each year.

Benefits of Sleeve Gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomy offers a number of benefits for individuals struggling with obesity and related health conditions. Some of the key benefits of this procedure include:

1. Significant Weight Loss: Sleeve gastrectomy is an effective weight loss procedure, with most patients losing between 50% and 70% of their excess body weight within the first two years after surgery. This weight loss can help to improve a wide range of health conditions associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and joint pain.

2. Reduced Hunger and Appetite: By removing the portion of the stomach that produces ghrelin, sleeve gastrectomy can help to reduce hunger and appetite, making it easier for patients to stick to a healthy diet and lose weight.

3. Improved Quality of Life: Losing weight through sleeve gastrectomy can lead to significant improvements in quality of life, including increased energy levels, improved mobility, and reduced risk of developing obesity-related health conditions.

4. Lower Risk of Complications: Compared to other bariatric surgery procedures, sleeve gastrectomy has a lower risk of complications, including infection, bleeding, and nutritional deficiencies.

5. Shorter Recovery Time: Sleeve gastrectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that typically requires only a short hospital stay and a relatively quick recovery time, allowing patients to return to their normal activities within a few weeks.

Risks and Complications of Sleeve Gastrectomy

While sleeve gastrectomy is generally considered a safe and effective weight loss procedure, like any surgery, it does carry some risks and potential complications. Some of the most common risks and complications associated with sleeve gastrectomy include:

1. Bleeding: During the surgery, there is a risk of bleeding from the incision sites or from the stomach itself. In rare cases, this bleeding can be severe and require additional surgery.

2. Infection: Any surgery carries a risk of infection, which can occur at the incision sites or within the abdomen. Antibiotics are typically given before and after surgery to reduce the risk of infection.

3. Leaks: There is a small risk of leaks from the staple line used to create the sleeve-shaped stomach. This can lead to infection, abscesses, and other complications.

4. Nutritional Deficiencies: Because the stomach is significantly reduced in size, patients may have difficulty getting enough nutrients from their diet. This can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, which can cause a range of health problems.

5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Some patients may experience GERD after sleeve gastrectomy, which can cause heartburn, chest pain, and other symptoms.

6. Strictures: In some cases, scar tissue may form at the site of the surgery, causing a narrowing of the stomach and difficulty swallowing.

7. Weight Regain: While sleeve gastrectomy is an effective weight loss procedure, some patients may experience weight regain over time if they do not maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

Preparing for Sleeve Gastrectomy

Before undergoing sleeve gastrectomy, patients will need to undergo a thorough medical evaluation to determine if they are a good candidate for the procedure. This evaluation will typically include a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans.

In addition to the medical evaluation, patients will need to make significant lifestyle changes in the weeks and months leading up to the surgery. This may include following a strict diet and exercise regimen, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol and other substances that can interfere with healing.

After Sleeve Gastrectomy

After sleeve gastrectomy, patients will need to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen to ensure proper healing and long-term weight loss success. This may include a liquid diet for the first few days after surgery, followed by a gradual transition to solid foods over the course of several weeks.

Patients will also need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure they are getting enough nutrients, as well as follow-up with their surgeon and a registered dietitian to monitor their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their diet and exercise regimen.


Sleeve gastrectomy is a safe and effective weight loss procedure that can help individuals struggling with obesity to achieve significant and sustainable weight loss. While the procedure does carry some risks and potential complications, the benefits of sleeve gastrectomy far outweigh the risks for most patients.

If you are considering sleeve gastrectomy as a weight loss option, it is important to speak with your doctor to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure and to discuss the potential risks and benefits in detail. With proper preparation, follow-up care, and lifestyle changes, sleeve gastrectomy can be a life-changing procedure that can help you achieve your weight loss goals and improve your overall health and quality of life.

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