Sleeve gastrectomy – another option in weight-loss surgery

April 07, 2011

You've probably heard of gastric bypass surgery, one of the first procedures surgeons used to help those with severe obesity lose weight.

Now, surgeons specializing in bariatric (weight-loss) surgery have many more options to treat people whose severe obesity is putting them at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and other dangerous conditions. These options include gastric banding and another procedure gaining in popularity -- vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), also called sleeve gastrectomy.

Like gastric bypass and gastric banding, VSG is designed to restrict the amount of food a person can ingest by making the stomach smaller. With gastric banding, the surgeon places a band around the upper part of the stomach to create a small pouch. The band can be adjusted to allow more or less food to pass through, depending on the patient's needs.

With gastric bypass, the surgeon first divides the stomach, creating a small pouch for food, then connects part of the small intestine to the pouch. This causes food to bypass the lower part of the stomach and first part of the small intestine so fewer calories are absorbed.

With VSG, the surgeon divides the stomach vertically, removing 85 percent of it and leaving a thin, banana-shaped section that can hold 1 to 5 ounces of food. Unlike gastric bypass, with VSG, the stomach remains connected to the first part of the small intestine. This can help preserve some functions of the stomach, small intestine and associated structures. Another important difference between VSG and many other bariatric procedures is that VSG is not reversible.

VSG is a relatively new procedure, but initial results are encouraging, with some patients losing significant amounts of weight. Most surgeons are considering VSG one of the options for people with severe obesity. Like bypass and banding, VSG can be performed using minimally invasive, laparoscopic techniques for some patients.

With VSG and other bariatric procedures, patients must commit to making significant lifestyle changes. These include eating much smaller amounts of carefully chosen foods and exercising regularly.

If you're considering any type of bariatric surgery, talk with a bariatric surgeon, who can help you determine the best procedure for you.