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bariatric surgery vs cosmetic surgery

Are Bariatric Surgery & Cosmetic Surgery the Same?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Many people trying to lose weight find that diet and exercise alone are not enough to help them achieve their weight loss goals. It is at this point that the research into surgical weight loss procedures begins.

One common question and point of confusion for people is in the difference between cosmetic surgery, such as liposuction or tummy tuck, and bariatric surgery procedures, such as gastric bypass or gastric band. While medical terminology can be confusing, it is important to understand that cosmetic or body contouring procedures and weight loss surgery are not one in the same.

Cosmetic weight loss procedures, such as liposuction remove existing fat from the body. Body contouring procedures help patients improve their body shape after they lose weight. But these cosmetic procedures do nothing to address the root issues of the patient’s weight gain and help the patient maintain weight loss over time. Cosmetic procedures are ideal for individuals with “trouble” areas, rather than those who are significantly overweight or obese.

On the contrary, bariatric surgery help patients achieve long-term weight loss through mechanisms such as restriction (limiting stomach capacity) and malabsorption (limiting absorption of calories and nutrients). As you are considering your weight loss options, here are a few key differences to keep in mind between bariatric surgery and cosmetic weight loss procedures.

  • Bariatric surgery procedures including gastric band, gastric bypass and gastric sleeve initiate weight loss by physically shrinking the size of the stomach and limiting the amount of calories the patient is able to consume.
  • Gastric bypass also works as a malabsorptive bariatric surgery, as it limits the amount of nutrients the body absorbs by bypassing a portion of the small intestine.
  • Cosmetic surgeries have no impact on a patient’s appetite, digestion or metabolism and will not result in continued weight loss after surgery.
  • Cosmetic procedures result in little to no weight loss (the typical patient loses less than three pounds). Bariatric procedures can help the patient lose between 30 and 80 percent of their excess body weight.
  • Bariatric surgery is a medical procedure, whereas liposuction and body contouring procedures are cosmetic. The goal of bariatric surgery is to improve the patient’s health and reduce weight-related risk factors. The goal of cosmetic surgery is to achieve a more pleasing physical appearance, not to improve the patient’s health.
  • During bariatric surgery, excess skin cannot be removed and body proportions cannot be improved. Many bariatric patients have excess skin after surgery due to rapid weight loss and may opt for a cosmetic procedure, such as body contouring to remove excess skin and improve body shape and appearance once they have achieved their goal weight.
  • Patients who are within five to 10 pounds of their ideal weight may experience the best results from cosmetic procedures. Patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 may achieve the best results from bariatric surgery.
  • Bariatric surgery should be performed by a board certified general surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery. Body contouring surgery should be performed by a plastic surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
  • Cosmetic procedures are typically considered elective and not covered by insurance. Bariatric procedures may be covered by health insurance if the patient meets the insurance company’s criteria and qualifications (check with your provider, as these can vary).

If diet and exercise has not worked for you and you are looking for a medical procedure that can help you reach your weight loss goals, bariatric surgery may be an option for you. Below is a brief explanation of the various bariatric procedures available.

Gastric Band

During the gastric band, or lap-band procedure, an inflatable silicone gastric band is placed around the upper portion of the stomach, reducing the amount of food that can be consumed. The adjustable band is connected with tubing to an access port under the skin and can be adjusted in size by injecting fluid through the port.

Patients who undergo gastric band surgery can expect to lose 20 to 45 percent of their excess body weight in the first year after surgery.

Gastric Bypass

During the gastric bypass procedure, a small stomach pouch is created in the top portion of the stomach. This stomach pouch is about the size of an egg. The new, smaller stomach is then connected to the lower portion of the small intestine, bypassing the remainder of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine. Food enters the stomach and goes directly to the lower part of the stomach, limiting the amount of calories and nutrients the body can absorb.

Patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery typically lose about 60 to 70 percent of their excess body weight in the first year after surgery.

Gastric Sleeve

During the gastric sleeve procedure, the portion of the stomach that produces ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is resected and removed, leaving a small and narrow gastric tube, or “sleeve.” The new stomach is about 15 percent of its original size. The result is a reduced stomach capacity and reduced appetite.

Patients who undergo gastric sleeve surgery typically lose about 70 to 80 percent of their excess body weight in the first year after surgery.

Cosmetic procedures may provide instant gratification for patients who do not have a significant amount of weight to lose. However, cosmetic surgeries are not intended to treat obesity or to help patients achieve long-term weight loss. If you are considering bariatric surgery to help you reach your weight loss goals and improve weight-related health conditions, contact your First Baptist Medical Center bariatric surgeon today to schedule a consultation.