Back to Living Better

Surgery to treat obesity? Why bariatric surgery can be necessary and lifesaving

“It’s important to recognize that obesity is a disease,” says Kevin McGill, M.D., a general and bariatric surgeon at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. “One you accept that simple statement, you can start treating it like a disease.”

An estimated 10 to 12 million American adults can be categorized as “morbidly obese,” meaning they are more than 100 pounds overweight. Since the early 1990s, bariatric surgery has been recognized as the only durable means of weight loss for people who are morbidly obese, says Dr. McGill.

Piedmont offers four minimally-invasive surgeries, often using robotic technology, to treat morbid obesity:

  • Adjustable gastric band
  • Gastric bypass
  • Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch
  • Vertical sleeve gastrectomy

How bariatric surgery helps patients get healthier

“Losing a substantial amount of weight can potentially eradicate illness,” explains Dr. McGill. “That’s what drives us. That’s what we’re really fighting for.”

Morbid obesity can lead to a number of life-threatening health conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory illness, such as sleep apnea

In addition to these life-threatening conditions, morbidly obese patients often experience orthopaedic issues and even struggle to walk.

Bariatric surgery: A brave step

“We get really frustrated when patients come in and tell us they feel like they’re taking the easy way out,” says Dr. McGill. “It’s a brave step to show up and consider that you’re going to take the reins and treating this disease.”

In addition to surgery, bariatric patients must make drastic, permanent changes to their diet and physical activity levels.

“They’ve been told that the only way to fix this problem is to eat less and move more,” he says. “Certainly, that’s a component of weight loss, but there’s much more to the disease of obesity that we don’t fully comprehend.”

While any type of surgery – bariatric included – carries a risk, Dr. McGill stresses that surgery works to treat obesity.

“[Surgical solutions] change lives and get rid of metabolic diseases that can have long-term consequences and impact.”

For more information, visit Piedmont Bariatric Surgery

Related Stories