Many of us are familiar with the terms Weight Loss Surgery and Gastric Bypass Surgery but the term Bariatric Surgery is one that you may not have come across before.
The term bariatrics comes from the Greek “baro” (weight) and the suffix “-iatrics” (a branch of medicine – as in geriatrics) and first came into use just over 40 years ago when it was felt that the treatment of obesity, together with the study of its causes and prevention, warranted its own branch of medicine.
Today bariatrics encompasses all aspects of medicine associated with obesity; including what is more properly termed bariatric surgery. In addition, surgeons performing weight loss operations will often prefer to use the title of bariatric surgeon and many are members of The American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS), which was formed some 20 years ago and which represents the largest group of obesity specialists to be found anywhere in the world.
Despite its relatively short history, bariatric surgery is rapidly establishing itself as a major component of the healthcare system due in no small part to the explosion (which many describe as being of pandemic proportion) of obesity across the Western world in the past 25 years.
Literally millions of Americans are classed as being clinically obese today (at last count the figure was put at over 60 million) and a significant proportion of these people are sufficiently overweight to be categorized as morbidly obese and candidates for bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery is also a quite unique field of surgery in that obesity brings with it a number of medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, urinary incontinence, liver disease, and arthritis all of which can potentially be cured through bariatric surgery.
More in its favor however is the fact that, at present, it is the only real solution to the problem of severe obesity. While most doctors will start patients on a program of diet and exercise to cure their weight problem this is being seen by many today as nothing more than the “politically correct” thing to do and a required step in a process that will ultimately lead to surgery if a satisfactory solution is to be found.
The traditional route of diet and exercise simply doesn’t work in the vast majority of cases and many specialists in the field are fast coming to the conclusion that dieting can actually do more harm than good in the long run.
Similarly, drug treatment to assist in weight loss is also proving less than effective for most patients and, although new drugs are under development and testing, most doctors again feel that this is not the answer to the problem.
At the end of the day, despite the risks and complications, bariatric surgery works and, for many patients, this is the route that they want to take.
As technology advances, surgical techniques improve and surgeons gain experience there can be little doubt that bariatric surgery will continue to grow.