Is Gastric Sleeve Surgery Reversible?

Can Gastric Sleeve be Reversed?

The decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery is a personal one—one that should be made after careful consideration and a confidential consultation with your bariatric surgeon. Since this type of surgery is permanent, you must understand the implications, risks, and long-term commitment involved so you can maximize the benefits of the surgery and achieve your long-term health and weight loss goals.

Can the Gastric Sleeve Be Reversed? 

Unfortunately, the gastric sleeve surgery cannot be reversed.

During gastric sleeve surgery, your surgeon removes approximately 75-80% of your stomach. This procedure helps you lose weight by restricting your food intake. Also known as sleeve gastrectomy or vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), gastric sleeve surgery is a surgical procedure that cannot be reversed. 

Those who have undergone gastric sleeve surgery—or are considering this procedure—need to understand that it is an intricate one. Reversing a gastric sleeve is not possible because your stomach is an organ that you are born with, and once a portion of it is removed, there’s no way to get it back. That portion of your stomach is simply no longer part of your body. 

Why Would You Need to Reverse a Gastric Sleeve? 

A bariatric surgeon cannot reverse a gastric sleeve. You can, however, inquire about having the gastric sleeve revision surgery – if you are encountering rare, severe complications (such as unrelenting heartburn) post-gastric sleeve surgery. 

After a thorough evaluation, your bariatric surgeon can determine if it would be suitable to convert—not reverse—the procedure by performing a different type of bariatric surgery: gastric bypass.

This revision surgery converts the sleeve and remaining stomach pouch into a smaller pouch connected directly to the small intestine, bypassing a portion of the stomach and small intestine. 

Another reason why you might wish to reverse a gastric sleeve has to do with insufficient weight loss, especially if your BMI was between 55-60 before your surgery. In this case, you may need what’s commonly referred to as a “second stage” procedure such as a duodenal switch. This complex bariatric procedure bypasses a significant portion of the small intestine (this limits the amount of nutrients your body absorbs from food) and diverts bile and pancreatic ducts to a lower section of the small intestine. 

Again, the above options do not reverse the original gastric sleeve procedure. Rather, they present different ways for you to lose weight so you have a better chance of achieving your desired results without experiencing unwanted complications. 

Potential Risks of Gastric Sleeve Reversal 

Given the removal of a significant portion of your stomach, gastric sleeve reversal is not medically possible. In the rare instance in which you experience severe complications or unintended consequences following sleeve gastrectomy, alternative approaches can be explored, but the risks of these approaches need not be overlooked. 

Modifying the original sleeve through revision surgery, for instance, carries its own set of risks. These include, but are not limited to: leakage from the staple line, bleeding, blood clots, anastomotic stenosis (stricture), and nutritional deficiencies, just to name a few.

Alternatives of Gastric Sleeve Reversal

Following gastric sleeve surgery, your body begins to adapt to the smaller size of your stomach. Attempting to reverse the gastric sleeve procedure could cause gastrointestinal discomfort, malabsorption, or even introduce the likelihood of you developing nutritional deficiencies. It’s for these and other reasons that you might wish to consider alternative solutions.

Dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes, and other medical interventions can help. A doctor or registered dietitian can show you how to address nutritional deficiencies and promote healthy eating habits. Also, establishing a regular exercise routine can help you manage your weight, decrease your stress, and ensure that you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep every night. These healthy habits have the potential to help reduce the likelihood of experiencing rare post-surgical complications. 

If any underlying medical conditions are contributing to complications, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your doctor may also prescribe certain medications that can alleviate your symptoms.

Exploring these alternative solutions allows you to work alongside your bariatric surgeon to make a well-informed decision regarding revision surgery. Open communication and collaboration with your bariatric surgeon are strongly encouraged. Remember, a complete reversal of a gastric sleeve is not possible due to the permanent removal of a majority of your stomach, but your bariatric surgeon can work closely with you to address your concerns and make recommendations regarding the best way to move forward. 

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