Weight Loss Surgery Definitions: A Glossary

American Board of Surgery
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 web site: www.absurgery.org

American Society for Bariatric Surgery
This is the largest bariatric 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 weight loss (bariatric) surgery are members of this society. You can learn more about the society at their web site: asbs.org.

See American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

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 word for weight loss surgery, which is surgery designed to treat severe obesity.

Body Mass Index
Also called BMI. It is equal to your weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in meters). You can figure out your BMI using the BMI Calculator at this web site.

An abbreviation for 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.

An abbreviation for Constant Positive Airway Pressure. 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.

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 "postop police officer," since it discourages sweet eating, and encourages weight loss.

See Deep Vein Thrombosis.

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

Gastric Bypass
Also called the "Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass." This operation is considered by many to represent the "gold standard" weight loss operation. It involves the creation of a small stomach pouch which is connected to a Y-shaped limb of 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 hear 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.

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

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 surgically-assisted weight loss.

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 (the strong tissues that surround the abdominal muscles) 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. 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!

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.

Laparoscopic Surgery
Surgery performed through multiple small incisions (1/4" to 1/2" long) using specially-designed surgical instruments and viewed through a laparoscope, or surgical telescope.

Malabsorptive Procedure
An operation, such as the biliopancreatic diversion, which causes 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.

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 LAP-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. After weight loss surgery, sleep apnea usually gets much better. Most patients who needed to use CPAP or BiPAP machines before surgery are able to stop using them within several months after surgery.

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


Q. How can I find out the meaning of a word that's not listed in the glossary here?

A. Feel free to submit a new question to one of the surgeons at the Mount Sinai Program for Surgical Weight Loss. Click here to submit a question.

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