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Gastric Sleeve Surgery: Qualifications, Complications, and More

The gastric sleeve surgery procedure — also called vertical sleeve gastrectomy or vertical gastric sleeve — is often an option for people who are not eligible or do not qualify to safely have other bariatric procedures.

What is Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Quick View of Gastric Sleeve Procedure

  • Description: Removes part of the stomach and creates a new, tube-shaped stomach or "sleeve". This is sometimes referred to as a "weight loss sleeve." Surgery is irreversible.
  • Method: In most cases, your bariatric surgeon will perform this gastric sleeve procedure laparoscopically, making several small 1/4- to 1/2-inch abdominal incisions.
  • How you lose weight: Reduces the size of the stomach and restricts the amount of food you can eat at one time, helping you feel full sooner.
  • Weight loss: Weight loss is slower than gastric bypass. Expect to lose 60 to 70 percent of excess body weight within 12 to 18 months after surgery.
  • Surgery time: About an hour.
  • Hospital stay: Two to three days.
  • Recovery time: Two to four weeks.

Gastric Sleeve Procedure: Weight Loss Surgery Eligibility and Qualifications

Although the number of stand-alone weight loss gastric sleeve procedures is increasing, many times this gastric sleeve operation is a first step in a two-part process.

For people who are either extremely obese or have health problems that make them ineligible for gastric bypass surgery, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy procedure is an option to help them start losing weight.

After a few years, most people lose enough weight to complete the second step of the process — typically with the duodenal switch procedure — for further weight loss.

What to Expect During Gastric Sleeve Surgery

After you receive general anesthesia, your bariatric surgeon will:

  • Make several small incisions on your abdomen to insert the laparoscope — a tool with a light and a tiny camera that sends pictures to a nearby computer monitor.
  • Remove about three-quarters of your stomach along the outside curvature.
  • Create a new stomach in the shape of a thin tube or “sleeve.”
    • The sleeve spans the original distance from the esophagus to the small intestine.
    • The pyloric valve — the normal outlet that controls the release of food from the stomach to the small intestine — continues to function normally.

What to Expect After Your Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Gastric sleeve surgery is more than an operation or procedure — it’s a commitment to living a healthier lifestyle. Following surgery, your care team will help you develop a four-phase, post-gastric sleeve surgery diet.

For recipes, tips, and support on your weight loss journey, visit the UPMC Bariatric Diet Resources section of our website.

Gastric Sleeve Complications, Side Effects, and Risks

Risks of gastric sleeve surgery

Serious complications following gastric sleeve and stomach reduction surgery are rare but can include:

  • Staple line leaks. This serious complication is most likely to occur in the first month following surgery.
  • Thrombosis (blood clots)
  • Infection of the surgical wound site.

Your bariatric surgeon will review all potential risks and complications with you prior to the gastric sleeve procedure.

Lower your gastric sleeve surgery risks

Before having gastric sleeve surgery, you can limit post-op side effects and complications by:

Gastric Sleeve Surgery Results

Patients who undergo gastric sleeve surgery on average lose more than half their excess weight. Gastric sleeve surgery results include an improvement or cure to obesity-related health problems, as well as a decrease in feelings of depression.