diet & weight loss

What is Biliopancreatic diversion, and how much does this weight loss surgery cost?

Biliopancreatic diversion is a complex form of obesity surgery, similar to a gastric bypass procedure. The treatment can be carried out with or without a duodenal switch i.e. removing part of the stomach and then rerouting a lengthy portion of the small intestine.

Biliopancreatic diversion treatment works by making the stomach smaller and directing food past the small intestine. Not only will you be able to store less food, and therefore become fuller quicker, but you will also absorb less fat from the food that you do eat.

Biliopancreatic diversion isn't as popular than other weight loss procedures partly because the treatment requires long-term nutritional follow-up and continual monitoring of the patient. However, it is still a good option for patients with very high BMI who may be less suitable for other forms of obesity treatment.

The procedure
The biliopancreatic diversion procedure involves removing part of the bottom of the stomach to leave a small pouch. The surgeon then connects your bowel to this newly created stomach pouch. In some cases, your gallbladder my be removed during the operation as losing weight too quickly can lead to painful gallstones.

In a biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, a smaller part of the stomach is removed, with the remaining stomach still attached to the upper part of the small intestine. Both procedures are carried out under general anaesthetic. The operation will take at least an hour but sometimes many more if there is substantial fat around the abdomen to cut through.

Risks and side effects
The risks of biliopancreatic diversion are relatively low but almost 1% of patients will not survive the operation. Possible complications include infection, leakage, deep vein thrombosis, and the development of ulcers. Side effects include nutritional deficiencies, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps.

Within one year of biliopancreatic diversion approximately 30% of patients develop anemia. Up to half of all ages develop various vitamin deficiencies which can be addressed with supplements. And finally, nearly 4% of patients will develop a serious protein deficiency which in some cases will require medical intervention.

Cost and prices
The cost of a biliopancreatic diversion treatment in the UK is anything from £10,000 up to £15,000 and upwards. Prices are somewhat lower in the US but you would need to travel to countries such as Brazil, India or Turkey to make any real savings.

However, with operations as serious as biliopancreatic diversion, it's questionable whether the lower costs found abroad can justify the potential complications of having treatment in a foreign country.

NHS, private or abroad
In some areas of the country, biliopancreatic diversion is available on the NHS. Your GP and surgeon will help you decide if such a treatment is more suitable than a gastric bypass or gastric band. You can of course also have the procedure at many private clinics both in the UK and abroad.

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Diet & Weight Loss