Last fact-checked: 8 September 2020
Bariatric surgery is an umbrella term used to describe a number of weight loss procedures that entail making changes to the digestive system. If you are obese, surgery is often seen as the last resort for losing a significant amount of weight when you have been unable to lose the pounds with diet and exercise.
Common procedures include gastric banding (lap-bands), gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. They work in slightly different ways, normally limiting how much you can eat or reducing the way the body absorbs nutrients, or both.
These are all extensive procedures; even those performed laparoscopically (keyhole surgery) require a significant amount of aftercare. Great consideration is therefore required as to the practicalities of having weight loss surgery abroad, particularly when it comes to finding a clinic in a destination that's right for you.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is used to treat patients who are dangerously overweight with potentially life-threatening obesity. There are a number of different types of weight-loss procedures, all of which work in similar ways. By reducing the size of the stomach, smaller amounts of food are required to make you feel full. As a result, you eat less, consuming fewer calories, and ultimately lose weight.
The three most common forms of bariatric surgery are:
Gastric Band (or Lap-Band):
The stomach’s size is reduced using an adjustable band. Through keyhole incisions, a band is wrapped around the upper part of the stomach and stitched. A balloon is enclosed in the band that can be inflated with a saline solution. This process reduces the size of the stomach making you feel full after only a small amount of food.
Top MD-verified gastric band clinics
Also known as Roux-en-Y, the procedure is where the stomach is divided, creating a small pouch at the top, and joined to the small intestine further down. This creates a bypass of the stomach and a significant part of the small intestine, so not only does it take less food to make you feel full, but less food is digested by the small intestine.
Top MD-verified gastric bypass clinics
Part of the stomach is removed, thereby reducing its size. This procedure is performed using only a few small incisions through which the stomach is cut (using a keyhole technique) and a large part removed, leaving a vertical sleeve. This is then closed with sutures or staples.
Top MD-verified sleeve gastrectomy clinics
Am I Suitable for Weight Loss Surgery?
You may be suitable for bariatric surgery if you have:
- A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater
- A BMI of 35 and another serious health problem, such as high blood pressure, or type II diabetes, that may be improved with weight loss
- Tried to lose weight by diet and exercise, but to no avail
- Generally good health
- Decided to completely change your lifestyle after surgery in order to lose weight – and keep it off
How Long Does Bariatric Surgery Take?
This depends on what procedure you have. Gastric bands are usually performed laparoscopically, typically taking around an hour. A sleeve gastrectomy takes between one and two hours and a gastric bypass between 90 minutes and three hours.
The gastric band procedure is the only surgery that isn’t permanent, and you will usually be discharged within 24 hours. The other procedures are permanent, and will usually require a hospital stay of between two and five days.
What Is the Recovery Time From Bariatric Surgery?
Post-surgery instruction may differ, and you will be given a detailed guide from your surgeon as to what you should and shouldn't do. In general, it is worth noting the following:
- You will not be allowed to eat for several days after surgery, which gives your digestive system some time to heal.
- After that, you will be given dietary guidelines and will start gently, on liquids only, before advancing to liquidized solids and soft foods, such as mashed potatoes, and then onto solids.
- As you will have a complete change in your dietary habits, your body will have to adapt to these – as well as rapid weight loss – so you are likely to feel cold, tired, aching and out-of-sorts for the first few months until your body gets used to it.
Bariatric Surgery Abroad: What to Consider
It may seem like a quite drastic step to have bariatric surgery abroad. However, our verified surgeons and facilities all follow the same international standards as their counterparts in western countries, and we carry out a number of background checks, including:
- Searching criminal/legal records
- Collating and publishing real patient reviews
- Verifying doctor and surgeon qualifications, particularly those who are specialist in bariatric surgery
- Confirming professional memberships and affiliations, such as with the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO)
- Conducting onsite visits, ensuring that international standards on safety and hygiene are met
Following the procedure, you will need to plan to stay in your chosen destination for at least a week, during which time you can rest in and around the comfort of your hotel. You should attend follow-ups as per your surgeon's advice at the clinic or hospital; these will involve tests to see how well your body has responded to the treatment, as well as making sure you are well enough to leave.
Your surgeon will be able to give you the green light as to when you'll be able to leave, as this will depend on how long your journey home is (and how you're doing it, i.e., driving or flying).
What Is the Cost of Bariatric Surgery Abroad?
Prices vary, depending on where you go, and you will have to take into account that bariatric procedures are major surgery and the feasibilities of flying, both as an overweight person, as well as flying back after surgery should be taken into account.
As a general guide, the average price of bariatric surgery in the United States is around $20,000, compared to in Mexico, where bariatric surgery can cost around 80% less at $3,500.
Get started by looking at these popular destinations for bariatric surgery:
- Bariatric clinics in Mexico
- Bariatric surgery in Thailand
Heading abroad for bariatric surgery at one of our trusted clinics does not involve any more risk than it would back home—yet you can make savings of well over $10,000, making the whole experience worth it.
How Do I Get Started?
Medical Departures offers a range of services to make booking your bariatric surgery abroad safe, secure and cost-effective.
To save you time, we’ve put together a list of bariatric clinics and hospitals across the world for you to look through. Destinations include Mexico, Colombia, Turkey, Thailand and Malaysia.
Book directly online or connect with our Customer Care Team who can provide you with a free quote. We also provide additional services, such as assistance with medical insurance, at discounted rates, as well as ensuring that you pay the lowest cost possible for your treatment through our best price guarantee policy.
International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO). Website accessed: 8 September 2020.
Seeras K; Acho RJ; Prakash S. Laparoscopic Lap Band Placement. 16 June 2020.
Gastric bypass surgery. Medline Plus. 21 June 2018.
Gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y). Mayo Clinic. 28 December 2017.