The term bariatric surgery is used to describe the treatment of severe obesity using a variety of surgical procedures. It is most suited for people who have attempted weight loss without success the traditional way, with or without drug therapy, and who are at a very high risk of obesity-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Basically the treatments involve reducing the stomach size, using a method such as gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass surgery.

Gastric banding is the least invasive of bariatric surgery procedures and is also reversible. It involves stomach restriction using a silicone band. The band is adjustable, allowing the stomach capacity to be altered as required, by the use of saline. This treatment means that the patient feet fuller much more quickly after eating and can only tolerate small sized meals.

Sleeve gastrectomy is a much more radical technique as it involves surgically removing a large part of the stomach – usually around 85% – leaving it in a shape resembling a tube or 'sleeve'. Part of the success of this procedure may be due to the removal of the part of the stomach that produces hunger-stimulating hormones. While it can be successful on its own it is sometimes used in combination with gastric bypass surgery.

The small intestine is basically divided into three sections. A gastric bypass procedure attaches a small part of the stomach or 'pouch' to the mid-section of the small intestine, bypassing the duodenum. The advantage of this technique is that there is a reduction in the absorption of kilojoules or calories consumed.

As with any operation there are risks involved in these treatments. Gastric banding is considered the least invasive procedure and is currently the most widely used. The other techniques are usually more qualified to super obese people whose lives are strictly at risk.

Of course bariatric surgery is used in conjuction with dietary advice and post-operative care, as the patient has to learn to adjust to a radical change in eating habits. These methods are more extreme than using the normal weight-reduction programs. However while there are no guarantees, they can be very successful in providing weight loss while improving health outcomes and reducing the risk of major diseases. If you have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight and are at risk of developing weight related health problems, talk to a professional about bariatric surgery options.