How it works
This operation can be performed as open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon removes more than half of the stomach and uses the remainder to create a thin vertical tube (sleeve) for the stomach pouch. The size of the stomach is reduced by around 70 percent which means you will only be able to eat small portions of food after surgery. The upper section of the stomach (gastric fundus) that controls appetite hormones is removed in the procedure so patients feel less hungry throughout the day.
Is it right for me?
Gastric sleeve is designed to help people lose a lot of weight and is usually offered to very obese patients. If you have a BMI of 40 or more then you might be a good candidate. Before you are considered for a sleeve gastrectomy you will need to undergo an assessment to rule out serious health concerns that might put you at risk of serious complications. As a surgical procedure the sleeve is more straightforward than gastric bypass. For this reason it is considered a safer procedure for people carrying a higher risk of cardiac arrest while under anaesthetic.
The sleeve is permanent and irreversible. After surgery your food intake will be restricted to around 600 calories a day which gradually increases over the first three months in post op. Weight loss takes place rapidly and you can expect to lose a lot of your excess body weight in the first year. It is not common for serious complications to occur. Although 1 in 4 patients are likely to develop chronic acid reflux and might need a conversion to gastric bypass to solve the problem.
What is the recovery like?
The recovery period for laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy is around 4 to 6 weeks. Recovery can take a week or two longer for sleeve patients who undergo open surgery. When you wake up after surgery you will feel pressure at the top of your stomach and an ache in your left shoulder. This pain will start to subside over the first day. Soon after waking you will be encouraged to take up gentle movement and exercise to stimulate the blood flow and aid recovery. Expect some pain in the first week and take painkillers as prescribed by your surgeon. As healing takes place the surgical incisions will be tender and sore to touch.
With the gastric sleeve you will feel very full after eating small meals. Some sleeve patients are prone to dumping syndrome (rapid gastric emptying). This happens when the stomach dumps food too quickly (usually high in sugar or fat) into the small intestine before it has been broken down in the stomach. The symptoms of dumping are unpleasant and can be avoided by sticking to a strict bariatric diet.
What are the risks and complications?
All surgeries come with the risk of complications. Possible complications associated with gastric sleeve include:
- Staple line leaks
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Dumping syndrome
- Digestion issues
- Sagging skin from rapid weight loss
Please seek and follow the specific guidelines from your bariatric team. Guidelines vary for individual patient needs and surgeries.