What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery? Risk Assessment (2023)

What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery? Risk Assessment (1)

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With so many types of weight loss procedures available, what is the safest form of weight loss surgery?1

Through this guide, candidates can assess the risks, invasiveness and success rates of various weight loss procedures to determine the safest surgeries available.

While this information can help you decide on which routes to consider, it is not substitution for professional medical advice because factors such as starting weight, medical conditions, risk factors, and the surgeon’s preferences, expertise and experience can affect which is safest for a given individual.

With that being said, the pros, cons, and risk level of each can be found below along with a few minimally and non-invasive weight loss procedures for those wary of surgery. Lastly, we provide food for thought so you can decide which weight loss surgery is best for your given circumstances.

What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery?

As mentioned above, what is the safest form of weight loss surgery is determined by both level of invasiveness and overall success rate.

Thankfully with modern technology, the risks of bariatric surgery in adults are minimal and quite safe, but it’s still certainly advisable for all patients–especially those with obesity, type 2 diabetes or other underlying issues–to have an in-depth discussion with their surgeon to learn and weigh all risks before deciding whether or not to proceed with surgery.2

What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery? Risk Assessment (2)

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash3

(Video) What are the risks and types of bariatric surgery?

Despite most being reasonably safe, it’s natural to want to know which is deemed the safest and most successful; the gastric sleeve holds the title of safest weight loss surgery with a success rate of 80-90%.

Researchers studying long-term gastric sleeve outcomes followed up with 156 adult patients with a pre-gastric sleeve average BMI of 41.5 for five years after surgery to measure success rates. The mortality rate was zero and at one year from surgery the average excess weight loss was an impressive 82% at one year and approximately 75% at the five year mark.4

Weight Loss Surgeries Risk Levels & Success Rates Compared

What is the safest form of weight loss surgery–or which is most applicable–can vary from person to person depending on their current weight, health conditions, and lifestyle. With several different stomach surgeries to choose from, we’ll list and compare weight loss surgeries, explain which bariatric surgery is safest, and explain benefits and risks of each.

Although some believe weight loss surgeries are for those who are giving up on weight loss, this is certainly not the case. To qualify for bariatric surgery, patients are required to go through an intensive screening process and have their medical history assessed.

They’re often not cleared for surgery until they’ve maintained their goal weight and healthy eating for 6 months first to ensure their commitment and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

In some cases people are approved without meeting these criteria if their weight causes a serious or life-threatening risk such as sleep apnea, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes.

Before getting into different types of weight loss surgeries, note that the reason neither liposuction nor tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) made this list is because neither are meant to be weight loss procedures, but instead are for removing excess fat or loose skin that remains once goal weight has been reached.

That being said, let’s check out the options available.

Biliopancreatic Diversion (With Duodenal Switch)

A biliopancreatic diversion is more extreme than a gastric bypass; up to 70% of the stomach is removed and more of the small intestine is bypassed. If this surgery is performed with a duodenal switch it’s still more drastic and involved than a gastric bypass but is less extensive than the biliopancreatic diversion alone.

What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery? Risk Assessment (3)

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(Video) How Safe is Weight Loss Surgery?

Adding the duodenal switch operation decreases likelihood of malnutrition and ulcers as well.

  • Risk Level: High
  • Success Rate: Average of 73% excess weight loss (at 2 years post-op)
  • Recovery Time: Expect 2-3 days in the hospital, 2-3 weeks off work, and 1-2 months before being fully healed and active
    • Pros: May expedite weight loss more than gastric bypass while still being able to eat more (due to the pouches left in a gastric bypass being smaller than the amount of stomach left after the biliopancreatic diversion)
    • Cons: High risk of complications; increased likelihood of malnutrition due to too few nutrients being absorbed; increased risk of “dumping syndrome” in which food passes from the stomach to the bowel too rapidly after eating

Gastric Band (Laparoscopic Gastric Banding)

A gastric band or lap band is an adjustable and inflatable silicone band surgically placed around the upper part of the stomach to restrict the opening to the stomach and reduce food intake.

Since a high percentage of patients experienced the band moving, slipping, or deteriorating to the point of needing emergency surgery, many surgeons stopped performing this procedure due to its high risk level. Others experienced pain, negative side effects, or minimal weight loss and had it removed.

Due to the high failure rate of 40% over 5 years, this is the least successful weight loss surgery.

  • Risk Level: High
  • Success Rate: Average of 49% of excess weight loss (at 2 years post-op)
  • Recovery Time: Can often return to work and normal workouts within 1-4 weeks
    • Pros: The band can be tightened by adding saline solution or loosened by removing fluid via needle; adjustable; small incision; usually brief recovery time
    • Cons: Though the stomach is smaller and can’t fit as much, it can be difficult to adjust mentality so patients must learn how to distract yourself from hunger or old habits to avoid stretching the stomach; high failure rate; high likelihood of complications; less weight loss success

Gastric Bypass (Also Known as Roux-en-Y)

In gastric bypass surgery, surgical-grade staples create a division within the stomach, leaving a usable pouch less than half the size of the stomach and the small intestine is separated and moved to the small pouch of the stomach by completely bypassing the lower portion of the stomach.

What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery? Risk Assessment (4)

Photo by Shane on Unsplash9

General anesthesia is used prior to making a long, vertical incision in the abdomen during open surgery; alternatively, in a laparoscopic bypass 6 very small incisions are made. In either case, the patient should feel fuller sooner after surgery because the stomach is much smaller and fewer calories will be absorbed due to bypassing the small intestine.6

Patients are advised to stick to a liquid diet temporarily after surgery and gradually transition back to regular foods over 6 weeks. They should begin walking and moving about within a day, with the hospital stay usually lasting 1-5 days.

(Video) What Is the Safest Form of Weight Loss Surgery?

Risks may include leaking from or blockage of the stomach or intestines, blood clots, infection, ulcers, and hemorrhage.

  • Risk Level: Moderate
  • Success Rate: Average of 63% of excess weight loss (at 2 years post-op)
  • Recovery Time: 1-5 days in the hospital followed by several weeks at home
    • Pros: No intestinal rerouting; lowered risk of heart disease, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and stroke due to weight loss
    • Cons: Though rare, more serious risks can include heart attack or temporary decrease in lung function following surgery; low blood sugar, dumping syndrome, and malnutrition are also possible

Gastric Sleeve (Sleeve Gastrectomy)

The gastric sleeve surgery is performed laparoscopically with either several small incisions along the upper abdomen or vertically down the center of the abdomen. A majority of the left side of the stomach is removed, with the remaining portion in a narrow tube shape that holds much less.

Food will still pass through to the small intestine.

Gastric sleeve weight loss surgery is irreversible so patients should be sure about this procedure before scheduling surgery.

However, a sleeve can be a good option for those who have significant weight to lose but not enough that a gastric bypass would be applicable, those with sleep apnea or other health issues that hinder weight loss, or for those who take medications that aren’t safely combined with other types of weight loss surgery.7

Complications of plastic surgery of the abdomen are fairly rare, but can happen and blood clots can be serious if not addressed immediately. To prevent clotting, patients should closely follow post-op instructions from the surgeon, wear compression around their abdomen, and be active soon after surgery (when advised it’s safe to do so).8

  • Risk Level: Low to Moderate
  • Success Rate: Average of 79% of excess weight loss (at 2 years post-op)
  • Recovery Time: Usually one night in the hospital, resuming daily activities almost immediately, able to return to exercising normally within 2-6 weeks at most
    • Pros: Highest success rate; quick surgery and recovery time; decreases likelihood of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease; fewer side effects than alternatives; usually safe to use NSAID pain relievers after surgery
    • Cons: May instigate or worsen acid reflux, heartburn, leaking from staple line, hernia, or infection; the sleeve may grow more narrow due to scarring

Non-Invasive Weight Loss Procedures To Consider (And Ask Your Doctor About)

Now that we’ve covered what is the safest form of weight loss surgery, let’s review non-invasive weight loss surgery options and non-surgical weight loss procedure alternatives.

It’s almost always best to try to lose weight naturally prior to having surgery or any type of procedure done, so those considering any of these are highly advised to first integrate clean eating and proper nutrition into their diets, regular physical exercise if able, and healthy lifestyle choices.

Specifically, tracking calories and maintaining a deficit is recommended, as well as checking out the best time to exercise to lose belly fat or researching alternate day fasting vs OMAD to see if any of these are doable and right for you.

Joining a gym, yoga class, or rock climbing club can be fun ways to lose weight naturally, as can trying new healthy recipes or hiking nearby trails. Aim for 100 jumping jacks a day or create your own workout challenges.

If you’ve exhausted all options and haven’t reached your weight and health goals but either don’t need or want a major surgery, the following are some safer, non-invasive weight loss options.

  • Cryolipolysis: Also called “CoolSculpting”, cryolipolysis is a nonsurgical outpatient procedure to reduce localized fat deposits that are unaffected by diet and exercise by “freezing fat” with a device. Patients remain awake throughout.
  • Gastric Balloon: Also called an intragastric balloon, this is a silicone saline-filled balloon placed into the stomach via the throat, which helps one feel fuller faster and decreases over-eating.
  • Lipolysis: Lipolysis is the breakdown of fats and lipids and can be done through injections, laser, or radiofrequency to chemically kill local fat cells; this is commonly done in the arms, thighs, chin, and other areas that collect fat deposits.

What Is the Least Invasive Weight Loss Surgery?

All types of weight loss surgeries compared, a gastric balloon is by far the least invasive. In fact, it requires no incisions since it’s performed via a simple outpatient endoscopic process that takes under an hour.

(Video) Weight Loss Surgery Risk Assessment - Reston Hospital Center

This intragastric (within the stomach) balloon is a silicone balloon filled with saline that is placed in the stomach and stays there for 6 months. By limiting how much can fit in the stomach, this helps one feel fuller faster.

How To Decide Which Is Best Weight Loss Surgery for You

To decide which weight loss procedure is best, it’s important to consider the long-term success rates, risk level, the pros and cons, your personals risk tolerance although most surgeries are relatively safe in todays day in age, and your overall health including but not limited to your body mass index (BMI), age, and any diseases or conditions.

If you’ve tried other weight loss solutions to no avail or have serious underlying health conditions that prevent you from losing weight or living to your fullest, weight loss procedures may be for you.

While familiarizing yourself with the safety various of weight loss surgeries is terrific due diligence, it’s important not to jump the gun on a particular surgery just because you believe it’s the best option.

However, the information above should help deduce which surgeries to bring up with a surgeon and they can help explain any other lingering questions regarding the safest form of weight loss surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Author

Nathan Petitpas

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet.In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.

View all by Nathan Petitpas


What is the safest form of weight loss surgery? ›

After going through all the benefits and risks of weight loss surgery, we can say that Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy is the safest among all the surgeries. This surgery will make your stomach smaller, causing you to eat less. However, as with most surgical procedures, there is the risk of side effects and complications.

Which weight loss surgery has the least complications? ›

The Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy is the most widely used, and safest, in the bariatric world. As with any major surgery, gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries pose potential health risks, both in the short term and long term.

Which weight loss surgery has no risk of death? ›

Bariatric Surgery Among the Safest Surgical Procedures

Vertical sleeve gastrectomy and roux-en-y gastric bypass procedures use a laparoscopic approach to reduce the risks of complications.

What is the safest form of weight loss surgery cost? ›

Bariatric surgery can cost between $15,000 and $23,000. Most people who have a bariatric procedure can because bariatric surgery is a covered benefit under their health insurance plan.

What is the safest weight loss surgery 2023? ›

For many people, the best option for weight loss surgery is gastric sleeve surgery. This allows you to lose a lot of weight while still absorbing nutrients. And you will produce fewer hormones that make you hungry. Making this the safest option to choose.

Is weight loss surgery worth the risk? ›

"When multiple attempts at weight loss have failed, weight-loss surgery becomes worth it because its benefits far outweigh the chance of complications," says Dr. Sherman. Like all surgical procedures, weight-loss surgery carries some risk. But that risk is low, Dr.

Which weight loss surgery has the highest success rate? ›

Different procedures have slightly different results. The average weight loss after gastric bypass is about 70% of excess body weight. After a duodenal switch, it's about 80%. Weight loss after sleeve gastrectomy ranges between 30% and 80%.

What is the negative side of weight loss surgery? ›

Bariatric Surgery Long-Term Risks

Dumping syndrome, a condition that can lead to symptoms like nausea and dizziness. Low blood sugar. Malnutrition. Vomiting.

What is the failure rate for weight loss surgery? ›

Currently, bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for severe obesity and its metabolic complications; however, 15–35% of the patients that undergo bariatric surgery do not reach their goal for weight loss.

What is the leading cause of death after bariatric surgery? ›

An anastomotic leak is the most dreaded complication of any bariatric procedure because it increases overall morbidity to 61% and mortality to 15%.

What is the leading cause of death in bariatric surgery? ›

Results. 6118 patients underwent primary bariatric surgery. 18 deaths (0.3%) occurred within 30-days of surgery. The most common cause of death was sepsis (33% of deaths), followed by cardiac causes (28%) and pulmonary embolism (17%).

Who is not a candidate for weight loss surgery? ›

If you are over the age of 65—although exceptions can be made. If you have a BMI of less than 35. If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol or take illicit drugs. If you have pre-existing medical conditions that generate a high risk situation for surgery.

What is the least painful weight loss surgery? ›

Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is a newer type of minimally invasive weight-loss procedure. In endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, a suturing device is inserted into your throat and down to your stomach.

What is the recovery time for weight loss surgery? ›

You can usually leave hospital 1 to 3 days after having weight loss surgery. You'll be able to start to return to your normal activities 4 to 6 weeks later. But you'll need to make long-term lifestyle changes to help make the most of your surgery.

What is the gold standard for bariatric surgery? ›

Gastric bypass is the current gold standard for weight-loss surgery, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and the National Institutes of Health.

What is the life expectancy after gastric sleeve? ›

The adjusted median life expectancy in the surgery group was 3.0 years (95% CI, 1.8 to 4.2) longer than in the control group but 5.5 years shorter than in the general population. The 90-day postoperative mortality was 0.2%, and 2.9% of the patients in the surgery group underwent repeat surgery.

What are 3 common long term complications of gastric bypass? ›

Longer term risks and complications of gastric bypass can include: Bowel obstruction. Dumping syndrome, causing diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. Gallstones.
  • Excessive bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia.
  • Blood clots.
  • Lung or breathing problems.
  • Leaks in your gastrointestinal system.

How many people regret weight loss surgery? ›

Results: Of 205 RYGB patients, only 2.2% (year 1) to 5.1% (year 4, n = 134) reported regret scores > 50 over 4 years; 2.0-4.5% did not think they made the right decision; 2.0-4.5% would not undergo WLS again.

What can you never eat again after gastric bypass? ›

Foods to Avoid After Bariatric Surgery
  • Red meat that's tough or dry.
  • Greasy, high fat foods.
  • Heavily seasoned or spicy foods.
  • Sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, glycerol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol.
  • Foods reheated in the microwave.
Mar 4, 2022

Which bariatric surgery has highest failure rate? ›

There are different surgeries.
OperationFailure Rate at 5 yearsSuccess Rate
Lap-bandingAbout 30%Mean weight loss at 10 years is 49% of excess weight
Sleeve GastrectomyAbout 20%Mean weight loss at 10 yrs is 55-60% of excess weight
Gastric bypassAbout 20%Mean weight loss is 10 yrs is 55-60% excess weight
Jun 29, 2021

What are 3 potential risk associated with weight loss surgery? ›

Rare complications of gastric bypass surgery include leakage through staples or sutures, ulcers in the stomach or small intestine, blood clots in the lungs or legs, stretching of the pouch or esophagus, persistent vomiting and abdominal pain, inflammation of the gallbladder, and failure to lose weight (very rare).

Is weight loss surgery safe long term? ›

Like gastric sleeve surgery, Lap-Band (AKA gastric band) surgery seems to be successful in the short term, but may present complications in the long term. Some research shows that patients regain their weight after two years, but other research deems Lap-Band surgery safe and effective.

Does weight loss surgery ruin your metabolism? ›

The answer is that metabolic surgery favorably affects metabolism in a number of ways. The most profound effects have to do with changing fat storage metabolism, lowering blood sugar, and increasing our metabolic rate.

Why do people get denied for weight loss surgery? ›

But why might a patient not qualify for bariatric surgery? BMI: First and most obviously, they simply may not have a BMI that is high enough. A BMI of 35 or more with one or more obesity related conditions or BMI of 40 or greater regardless of obesity related conditions is required to have surgery.

What percent of weight loss surgery patients regain weight? ›

Most patients reach their maximum weight loss one to three years following surgery, and research shows that, on average, patients regain about 30 percent of their weight-loss after 10 years. About one-quarter of patients regain all of their lost weight by 10 years.

Who is high risk for bariatric surgery? ›

Who it's for. In general, bariatric surgery could be an option for you if: Your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher, called extreme obesity. Your BMI is 35 to 39.9, called obesity, and you have a serious weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea.

Is bariatric surgery safer now? ›

While no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise, bariatric surgery can be a safe and effective tool for long-term weight loss for those with obesity. “Minimally-invasive procedures and a dedicated care team make bariatric surgery safer than ever,” says bariatric surgeon Dr. Talar Tatarian.

Which organ is impacted by bariatric surgery? ›

Bariatric surgery can result in potential trophic changes of the large and small intestine.

What is a serious early complication of bariatric surgery that can be life threatening? ›

A leaking anastomosis may cause bleeding and infection until it is treated. These leaks are serious and can be life-threatening.

What percentage of people have complications from bariatric surgery? ›

Around 20% of bariatric surgery patients develop a short- or long-term complication.

Does weight loss surgery cause early death? ›

Weight Loss Surgery Reduces Risk of Early Death, 40-Year Study Shows. People with severe obesity who had bariatric surgery had a lower risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer compared with those who did not have the surgery, but a higher risk for suicide.

Can you get gastric bypass at 200 lbs? ›

To be eligible for bariatric surgery, you must be between 16 and 70 years of age (with some exceptions) and morbidly obese (weighing at least 100 pounds over your ideal body weight and having a BMI of 40).

What tests are done before bariatric surgery? ›

Certain basic tests are done prior to bariatric surgery: a Complete Blood Count (CBC), Urinalysis, and a Chemistry Panel, which gives a readout of about 20 blood chemistry values. All patients get a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram. Many surgeons ask for a gallbladder ultrasound to look for gallstones.

Can you ever eat normally after gastric bypass? ›

You can usually start eating regular foods about three months after surgery. At each stage of the gastric bypass diet, you must be careful to: Drink 64 ounces of fluid a day, to avoid dehydration. Sip liquids between meals, not with meals.

Which weight loss surgery has the easiest recovery? ›

Lap band surgery is the least invasive procedure for weight loss surgery, yielding the fastest recovery time.

How much weight will I lose 6 months after gastric sleeve? ›

Six Months

At this point, you'll likely have lost about 45-55% of your excess weight, or about 1 to 2 pounds per week.

How can I shrink my stomach without surgery? ›

The only way you can physically and permanently reduce your stomach's size is to have surgery. You can lose overall body fat over time by eating healthy food choices, but that won't change your stomach size.

Which weight loss surgery has the fewest complications? ›

Of two common weight loss surgeries, one is safer but may be less effective. Long-term, sleeve gastrectomy carries less risk of death and complications than gastric bypass, but patients were more likely to need follow-up surgery.

What is the easiest safest weight loss surgery? ›

Minimally invasive laparoscopic technique works by limiting food intake, reducing appetite and slowing digestion. This is one of the safest, least invasive surgical weight loss options.

How painful is weight loss surgery? ›

Gastric bypass surgery can be very painful. You may feel pain at the incision site or in other areas. Of course, there will be a form of pain management while you are in the hospital.

How long does it take to lose 100 pounds after gastric bypass? ›

That means that if you are 100 pounds over your ideal weight, you will lose 50 pounds within a year of the surgery. If you are 200 pounds overweight, we expect you will lose 100 pounds the first year. You will continue to lose weight but at a slower rate after the first year.

How much weight do you lose in the first 2 weeks after gastric sleeve? ›

Although individual results vary depending on factors ranging from age, health, and starting weight, studies show average weight loss for this type of procedure is five to 15 pounds per week for the initial two to three months. After the first six months, patients can expect to lose one to two pounds per week.

Which weight loss surgery has the least recovery time? ›

Laparoscopic surgery instead uses five or six very small incisions to complete the procedure. This causes laparoscopic surgery patients to have significant less scaring then open surgery patients and consequently in some cases a speedier recovery time. The procedure with the shortest recovery time is lap band surgery.

What is the most effective long-term weight loss surgery? ›

Numerous research studies show that gastric bypass surgery produces the most weight loss both short-term and long-term, compared to other forms of weight-loss surgery. However, patients who undergo gastric bypass may experience a serious stall in weight loss after two years.

What is the failure rate for weight-loss surgery? ›

Currently, bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for severe obesity and its metabolic complications; however, 15–35% of the patients that undergo bariatric surgery do not reach their goal for weight loss.

What are the alternatives to weight loss surgery? ›

Alternatives to weight loss surgery may include lifestyle changes like diet, exercise and possibly weight-loss medication. Losing excess weight can boost your health in many ways. But you may not need surgery to do this. Many benefits can be achieved by losing just 5% of your body weight.


1. Risks and Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery | OSF Saint Francis Medical Center
(OSF HealthCare)
2. STEPS TO SURGERY | The Medical Tests You Need Prior to Bariatric Surgery
(Live Healthy MD)
3. Risks Associated with the Gastric Sleeve Operation
(Dr. Robert Marvin, Houston Surgical Specialists)
4. Weight-loss Surgery 101 — HealthCasts Episode 7
5. The Complications of Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery
6. Minimally Invasive Weight Loss Surgery: Expert Q&A
(UChicago Medicine)


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