What is gastric sleeve surgery? New BBC documentary warns of issues with weight-loss surgery

Neil Ruddock recently shared that he has lost 93 lbs (6.6 stone) since undergoing weight-loss surgery last year (Neil Ruddock / Twitter)
Neil Ruddock recently shared that he has lost 93 lbs (6.6 stone) since undergoing weight-loss surgery last year (Neil Ruddock / Twitter)

A BBC investigation has revealed that seven British patients had died after travelling to Turkey for weight-loss surgery.

Former England footballer Neil Ruddock recently revealed that he had gastric sleeve surgery last year, after his weight reached 27 stone. Since having the surgery, Ruddock has lost more than six stone.

He wrote on Twitter: “After years of struggling with my weight, I decided it was finally time to take action.

“Last year I had gastric sleeve surgery with @WeAreTransform_ and I’m well into my weight loss journey, to date I’ve lost 93 lbs.

“This is a fresh start & I’m excited about this new chapter.”

However, there have since been warnings that people are being “reckless”and seeking cheap weight-loss surgery abroad.

Now, BBC documentary Weight Loss Surgery: Getting Thin Abroad, which can be downloaded on BBC Three, reveals many have returned home with serious health issues after having had gastric sleeve operations. The procedures involve more than 70 per cent of the stomach being removed.

The operations, used to treat morbid obesity, are routinely carried out in the UK. However, the NHS waiting list is so long and the prices for private treatment so expensive, that people are being driven abroad.

Expers warn weight-loss surgery carries risks and should not be considered as a first option for weight loss.

Find out what gastric sleeve surgery entails and who it could be suitable for, as well as the risks, below.

What is gastric sleeve surgery?

Gastric sleeve surgery is an operation where most of the stomach is removed. This means that the patient will feel full more quickly, so will eat less food and therefore lose weight. It also changes hormones that trigger hunger.

It is one of several weight-loss surgery options, which include a gastric band and a gastric bypass.

A gastric band is where a band is placed around the stomach, while a gastric bypass is when the top part of the stomach is joined to the small intestine.

Who is eligible for gastric sleeve surgery?

Weight-loss surgery, such as gastric sleeve surgery, is sometimes an option for people with obesity.

It’s available on the NHS for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or a BMI between 35 and 40 with obesity-related conditions.

The surgery is available to people who have tried other weight-loss methods but have struggled.

Patients interested in weight-loss surgery need to be assessed to see if the operation would be suitable. The NHS will assess the patient’s physical and mental health, and their diet and eating patterns.

Gastric sleeve surgery is also available privately, but can be expensive.

How much does a gastric sleeve cost?

The NHS says getting a gastric sleeve privately can cost between £8,000 and £10,000.

A gastric band costs between £4,000 and £8,000, while a gastric bypass costs between £8,000 and £15,000.

Some people choose to have surgery in other countries, such as Turkey, where it is often cheaper. But the NHS warns that the standards may not be as high as in the UK, and that the aftercare may not be as straightforward.

What are the risks of getting a gastric sleeve?

The NHS says that weight-loss surgery carries a risk of complications, some of which can be serious.

Some risks associated with weight-loss surgery include blood clots, wound infections, a leak in the gut, a blocked gut, malnutrition, gallstones, excess skin, and risk of dying, although the NHS say the latter is rare.

A woman who travelled to Turkey for weight-loss surgery in November experienced complications such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and dehydration, the Independent reported.

Doctors in the UK discovered that she had a serious leak that led to an infection. Pinky Jolley, 45, battled sepsis for more than a month before being able to return home.