Gastric Bypass Surgery

TV personality Star Jones lost 160 pounds in three years after gastric bypass surgery. See more food proportion pictures.
Jennifer Graylock/Associated Press

Between 1980 and 2004, the rate of obesity more than doubled in the United States, and the numbers continue to rise. In fact, obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., second only to tobacco use. While some people may view obesity as a cosmetic problem, it carries serious health risks. Those suffering from obesity have a much higher risk for life-threatening ailments, including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart problems.

The challenge, of course, is losing the weight, and many obese patients cannot achieve this through simple diet, exercise or medication. After exhausting all of these options, many people consider weight-loss surgery. There are several types of weight-loss surgery, but gastric bypass surgery is the most common. Doctors perform an estimated 140,000 gastric bypass surgeries in the United States every year [Source: American Society for Bariatric Surgery].

People usually lose more weight through gastric bypass surgery than through other forms of weight-loss surgery -- on average, 60 percent of their excess weight. In plain numbers, this means a patient who has 200 extra pounds of weight will lose approximately 120 pounds. These results are impressive, and unlike with other weight-loss surgeries, weight loss resulting from a gastric bypass surgery usually remains lost for more than 10 years.

While the majority of patients undergoing weight-loss surgery will experience significant weight loss, it is important to note that these surgeries are not a quick and easy way to lose weight. Instead, patients lose weight over the span of months or years. They must relearn how to eat the right portions of the right foods and to eat for the right reasons.

In this article, we will look at what makes a good candidate for gastric bypass surgery, how the surgery is performed, how it works, the risks and how to ensure a rapid recovery.­­