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Weight Loss Surgery Glossary

American Board of Surgery(ABS)

This is the official certifying agency for American surgeons. A surgeon who is "board certified" has completed a recognized residency program in general surgery and passed extremely rigorous written and oral exams. Surgeons who have recently graduated from residency or fellowship programs are usually "board eligible," meaning they are eligible to take the Board certifying exam. You can find out more about the Board at their website: absurgery.orgOff Site Icon.

American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS)

This is the largest bariatric (weight loss) surgery society in the world. It was created in 1983 to "advance the art and science of bariatric surgery." Most surgeons who have committed a major portion of their practice to bariatric surgery are members of this society. You can learn more about the society at their website: asbs.orgOff Site Icon.

The ASBS also determines the gold standard of bariatric surgery and provides the Center of Excellence award to deserving organizations. ASBS/Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) Center of Excellence requirements are:

  • Must perform at least 125 bariatric surgeries per year collectively if more than one surgeon
  • Each Surgeon must have performed at least 125 bariatric surgeries him or herself total and perform at least 50 per year
  • Must report long-term patient outcomes
  • Must submit to on-site inspections to verify all data
  • Must have a dedicated multi-disciplinary bariatric team that includes a surgeon, nurses, medical consultants, nutritionists, psychologists, and exercise physiologists

Atelectasis

Incomplete expansion of the lung. This is very common after abdominal surgery and is one of the most common sources of fever in the immediate postoperative period.

Bariatric Surgery

The word "bariatric" comes from the Greek word baros, meaning weight. Bariatric surgery is another phrase for weight loss surgery.

Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index, also called BMI, is your weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in meters). You can figure out your BMI using the BMI Calculator on this website.

Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

A BiPAP machine is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea. See also CPAP.

Centers of Excellence

Centers of Excellence are awarded by the ASBS. ASBS/Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) Center of Excellence requirements are:

  • Must perform at least 125 bariatric surgeries per year collectively if more than one surgeon
  • Each Surgeon must have performed at least 125 bariatric surgeries him or herself total and perform at least 50 per year
  • Must report long-term patient outcomes
  • Must submit to on-site inspections to verify all data
  • Must have a dedicated multi-disciplinary bariatric team that includes a surgeon, nurses, medical consultants, nutritionists, psychologists, and exercise physiologists

Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

A CPAP machine is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea. See also BiPAP.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (Also called DVT)

This is another name for blood clots that form in the deep veins of the legs and pelvis. People recovering from abdominal surgery are at increased risk for these clots, as are overweight individuals.

Duodenal Switch

This is the most complex of the procedures. Part of the stomach is removed and food is routed around most of the intestines.

Diabetes

High blood sugar. Also called diabetes mellitus. Diabetes can occur when your body doesn't make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar controlled. This is called Type I diabetes. In overweight individuals, diabetes is often caused by insulin resistance, where insulin levels may be elevated, but the body's tissues are resistant to its effects. This is also known as Type II diabetes.

Dumping Syndrome

This occurs to gastric bypass patients after eating sweets or carbohydrates. They may feel queasy and sweaty, and may suffer from diarrhea afterward. This is an intentional side-effect of the operation which has been called the "post-op police officer," since it discourages eating sweets and encourages weight loss.

Fascia

Fascia is strong connective tissue which performs a number of functions, including enveloping and isolating the muscles of the body, providing structural support and protection.

Gastric Banding

A restrictive operation in which a plastic band is placed around the upper portion of your stomach. Recently, adjustable gastric bands have become available that can be placed laparoscopically.

Gastric Bypass

Another term for malabsorptive weight loss surgery procedures, such as Gastric Bypass and the Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch (BPD/DS). These operations are considered by many to represent the "gold standard" weight loss operation. They involve the creation of a small stomach pouch which is connected to a Y-shaped limb of your small intestine. It causes weight loss through a combination of restriction, malabsorption, and dumping syndrome.

Heart Disease

Heart disease takes many forms. Usually, heart disease occurs due to inadequate blood flow to the heart muscle. This occurs when the arteries that supply the heart muscle (the coronary arteries) become partially or completely blocked. Obese people are at increased risk of heart disease due to their higher rates of hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and hypertension. 

Hypercholesterolemia

The medical term for high blood cholesterol. Many patients find that their blood cholesterol decreases significantly after weight loss surgery.

Hypertension

The medical term for high blood pressure. Hypertension is associated with severe obesity. Many individuals requiring medication for hypertension are able to decrease or eliminate these medicines after weight loss surgery.

Incarcerated Hernia

If the intestines become stuck in the hernia, this is called an incarcerated hernia. If the edges of the hernia squeeze the blood supply to the intestine, the intestine can become strangulated; this is a surgical emergency!

Incentive Spirometry

After surgery, you will be given a small plastic device with a flexible hose attached to it (kind of like a snorkel). The nurses will teach you how to suck air in through the device to exercise your lungs. This will help you to avoid atelectasis and pneumonia following surgery. You should take you incentive spirometer home with you, so that you can continue your breathing exercises at home.

Incisional Hernia

When an abdominal incision does not heal properly, a defect in the fascia may form. The intestine, or other abdominal organs, may then protrude through this defect. This may cause pain or discomfort, in addition to a visible bulge.

Laparoscopic Surgery

 Laparoscopic surgery (also known as minimally invasive surgery)is performed through multiple small incisions (1/4" to 1/2" long) using specially designed surgical instruments and viewed through a laparoscope, or surgical telescope. The laparoscope is a narrow surgical telescope, usually 5 mm (1/4") to 10 mm (1/2") in diameter, that can be inserted into the abdomen through a very small incision. A small video camera is usually attached to the outer end of the scope, so that the image may be viewed on a TV monitor.

Malabsorptive Procedure

Operations, such as the biliopancreatic diversion (BPD) or Gastric Bypass, that cause weight loss by decreasing the number of calories your body absorbs from the food you eat. Different procedures may cause varying malabsorption of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

Open Surgery

Surgery done through a large incision in the abdominal wall, using traditional surgical instruments. In heavy patients, these large incisions are at risk of infection and hernia formation.

Pneumonia

Infection in the lung. Patients who are recovering from abdominal surgery are at risk for this problem. Walking, and the use of incentive spirometry, can substantially reduce this risk.

Restrictive Procedure

A weight loss procedure which works primarily by decreasing the functional size of the stomach. This decreases the amount of food which can be eaten at one time. Examples include gastric banding and vertical-banded gastroplasty (VBG). The Adjustable Gastric Band is the newest purely restrictive procedure.

Sleep Apnea

 Apnea is the medical term for "stopping breathing." Many obese people have difficulty breathing when they sleep. The fatty tissues in the pharynx and neck can compress the airway and block it. When this occurs, the body's carbon dioxide levels rise to uncomfortable and unsafe levels. This may cause you to wake up many times throughout the night. For this reason, patients with sleep apnea sleep very poorly, and wake up in the morning still feeling tired. They remain tired throughout the day, sometimes falling asleep in the middle of a conversation or while driving. Sleep apnea may be relieved by using a CPAP or BiPAP device at night. These are breathing assist devices that are worn over the face to help with breathing at night time.

Strangulated Hernia

Pressure on the hernial contents may compromise blood supply (with their low pressure, veins are especially sensitive, and venous congestion often results) and cause ischemia, and later necrosis and gangrene, which may become fatal.

Vertical-Banded Gastroplasty (VBG)

This procedure, also known as VBG, involves the creation of a vertical pouch in your upper stomach. The amount of weight loss achieved is typically less than that of other procedures such as gastric bypass or biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch.

Learn more about weight loss surgery.

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