Gastric bypass surgeries involve creating paths that circumvent the normal flow of the digestive system. This reduces or constricts the size of the stomach so that people can’t eat as much as they normally would.

These operations are typically employed as weight-loss or obesity treatments in people with high body-mass indexes, or BMIs, and the procedures come in various forms. While they can technically be undone, it’s often a bad idea to attempt a reversal. Here’s why.

Gastric Bypass Surgery Basics

There are many techniques for performing bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery. Some common gastric bypass methods include:

Biliopancreatic Diversion With Duodenal Switch

In this procedure, surgeons remove around four-fifths of the stomach and bypass the bulk of the intestines. It’s usually performed on individuals who suffer from morbid obesity, or BMIs greater than 50.[1]


Gastric Bypass Surgery

In the Roux-en-Y procedure, surgeons create a pouch from the upper section of the stomach and connect it to the intestines. The remainder of the stomach is also connected nearby, which creates a “Y” shape and allows both food and digestive juices to enter the intestines.[2]

Are These Procedures Reversible?

shutterstock_110627588Biliopancreatic diversion may lead to a condition called malabsorption, or reduced absorption of consumed food inside the intestine. While this problem may need to be corrected by surgeons, the removal of tissue cannot be reversed. Revisions are typically limited to cases where patients suffer severe side effects.[3]

With the Roux-en-Y surgery, although the organs are still present, it’s not usually possible for surgeons to reverse the original operation. The growth of scars around the surgery sites can make it hard to access operable tissue and pose a major challenge to healthy healing.[4]

Another important factor to consider is that having a second operation on the same spot can heighten other risks. Bleeding and damage may be more likely to occur, and these problems can lead to nearby organ injuries, blood clots or infections.

Are Other Forms of Bariatric Surgery Reversible?

bariaticThe idea that gastric bypasses are permanent may make some patients inclined to opt for other kinds of bariatric procedure. It’s important to remember, however, that most doctors strongly recommend against reversing these surgeries.

In addition to raising the chance of potential medical complications, reversals dramatically increase the likelihood that patients will regain unhealthy amounts of weight. Like gastric bypass revisions, reversals for procedures like lap bands and gastroplasties are reserved for the relatively small percentage of patients who develop serious health problems caused by their first surgeries.

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