The Stitch

Is 2024 your year for weight loss surgery?

A before-and-after picture of Rebecca Scavello showing her weight loss progress.
Rebecca Scavello

Rebecca Scavello, a Baylor Medicine weight loss patient, was tired of relying on medications – one for diabetes, another for high cholesterol and one more for high blood pressure – and tired of feeling unhealthy. So, she decided to have weight loss surgery and dropped to 243 pounds from 324.

Now, Rebecca is off all her medications, no longer deals with sleep apnea and feels much better emotionally. Yet, it’s the little things that truly stand out. “It’s fantastic to move around more – just the simple act of bending down to tie your shoes,” she shared. “Things you might not even think about.”

She enjoys flying without needing a seat belt extender and being more active.

“Weight loss surgery was the smartest decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “Honestly, I only wish I had done it sooner.”

Dr. Juliet Holder-Haynes, Baylor Medicine weight loss surgeon, says she has many patients who say the same thing – they wish they had the surgery sooner – and so she advises patients to look into weight loss surgery if they are wondering about it.

“I would say if you are on the fence, come in for a consultation,” Holder-Haynes said. We don’t have to decide on surgery right away. We can try medications or work with the dietitian for a period of time.”

Holder-Haynes says she encounters some common misconceptions when she meets with patients:

Weight Loss surgery is dangerous

“Gastric bypass has a bad reputation mostly from days when we did open surgery and patients had complications, but advancements in surgery, including robotic surgery, have made the procedure safer,” Holder-Haynes explained. “The risk of major complications is lower than gallbladder removal, hip replacement or hysterectomy.”

Weight loss will be ongoing for the rest of their life

“Most of the weight loss happens in the first six months to a year after surgery and then patients’ weight level off,” Holder-Haynes said.

They will miss certain foods

“Patients worry about missing certain foods, but I reassure them that they may be able to enjoy some of them (in smaller portions) and they may not even have an appetite or craving for sweets as much,” she said.

Surgery will solve all their problems

“While weight loss surgery does solve a lot of problems, ranging from sleep apnea to reversing type 2 diabetes, the surgery will not cure all life’s problems,” Holder-Haynes said. “When I talk to patients, I try to get a sense of why they want the surgery and help them manage expectations.”

Overall, weight loss surgery offers many benefits. Holder-Haynes says not only do patients enjoy the change in their appearance and can shop at more stores for clothes, but they also experience many benefits like acid reflux going away, joint pain improving, increased energy, a decreased need for some medications and cravings going away.

Baylor surgeons offer a number of weight loss surgery options ranging in terms of invasiveness, from the sleeve gastrectomy to gastric bypass to SADI-s (single-anastomosis duodenal intestinal bypass). All the operations are minimally invasive and recovery time is similar.

“I try not to push a patient in a certain direction unless there are strong reasons for a specific procedure,” Holder-Haynes said. “For example, gastric bypass works well for those who have severe reflux. I see a lot of pre-transplant patients (who are higher-risk patients), so the sleeve is a safer operation for them. But I have seen great results with the sleeve and great results with the bypass.”

The patient and their surgeon will consult about the various options and make the best plan for them.

By Tiffany Harston, communications associate with the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery

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