Weight Loss Surgery

Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Lose weight and live healthier with the help of surgery at Sanford Health. Our dedicated bariatric surgical team equips you with the tools and resources you need to meet your weight loss goals.

We offer minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic procedures. These surgical techniques can offer benefits such as shorter recovery times and reduced risks.

Lead a Healthier Life

With weight loss surgery, you’ll lose more than just excess weight. Most of our patients see a decrease or a complete resolution of related health issues, including:

  • Acid reflux
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Other obesity-related health issues

Want to learn more? Explore these weight loss surgery resources:

Weight Loss Surgery (Bariatric Surgery) Options

Gastric Bypass Surgery
Reduces the size of your stomach so you’ll absorb fewer calories and feel full more quickly.

Gastric Band (Lap Band)
Surgeons place an adjustable band around your stomach to help you eat less and feel full with less food.

Gastric Sleeve Surgery
This surgery removes part of your stomach without a bypass.

Revisional Bariatric Surgery
If you do regain weight, our surgeons can perform revisional surgery.

Robotic-Assisted Weight Loss Surgery
Robotic technology helps surgeons operate with more control and precision.

Surgery Support

We provide consultation, education and support before surgery. Together, we’ll create a treatment and recovery plan tailored to your unique needs. Your experience also doesn’t end after your procedure. We offer postoperative support to help you successfully lead a healthy lifestyle.

Choose Sanford Health for excellence in bariatric surgery. Our programs in Bemidji, Bismarck, Fargo and Sioux Falls are accredited by The Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP).

This accreditation shows our programs are held to the highest bariatric surgical standards. It also means we have quality improvement initiatives in place and are always striving to do better.

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Additional Information

Frequently Asked Questions

How much weight will I lose with gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy?

The average patient loses 60% to 80% of their excess body weight after gastric bypass and 50% to 70% of excess body weight after sleeve gastrectomy. You will lose weight actively for 12 to 18 months after surgery. After that, most patients regain a little (10 to 20 pounds), and that is their new 'normal' weight.

How much weight will I lose with the lap band?

The average weight loss is approximately 36-38% of excess weight in two to three years after surgery.

What exactly happens to the bypassed stomach after gastric bypass surgery?

The bypassed stomach continues to work by secreting digestive juices. These juices go downstream and start digesting the food after the lower-sutured connection.

Many programs have a long waiting period to get started with the surgery process. What is the waiting period for Sanford Health's program?

The program does not have a waiting period. However, the time patients typically wait to get to surgery depends on their preoperative insurance requirements and is widely variable.

How long will I be in the hospital after surgery?

For all usual laparoscopic bariatric surgeries, the average hospital stay is one night. If you have an adjustable gastric band (lap band) and live locally, you may be able to go home on the same day.

How long will I need to take off work?

For laparoscopic bariatric surgery, the average amount of time away from work is one to two weeks.

Can I have children after having weight loss surgery?

While there is no increased problem with pregnancy and birth after obesity surgery, we recommend that you wait at least a year to 18 months after surgery to allow your body to get over the first phase of rapid weight loss. When you do become pregnant, we advise that you increase your protein intake and double your vitamins and iron supplements. We would like to discuss your bypass with your obstetrician, so please let us know when you become pregnant.

Will my skin sag?

Yes, you will experience some sagging skin, depending on your age. If you're younger than 35, you have more elasticity in your skin and this will be less of a problem. Frequently a tummy tuck may be beneficial, but keep in mind insurance may not pay for this.

Will I lose my hair?

You may notice you're losing more hair than usual during the first four to six months after bariatric surgery. This is common, and there's no need to worry. Patients typically regain the lost hair in the months that follow. Reasons for the temporary partial hair loss include rapid weight loss, the stress of undergoing major surgery and inadequate protein intake.

Will I become more sensitive to the cold?

Yes, you will find you are more sensitive to the cold. That's because the extra weight you once carried served as an insulating layer. We recommend you dress in more layers until you get used to your new body.

I understand it will take a while before I experience hunger again after I've had gastric bypass surgery. What can I expect?

This is correct. In the first three to six months after your surgery, you will not experience hunger. We call this the honeymoon period because the pounds melt away. At some point, you will begin to feel hunger once again. We will help you deal with your new hunger urge in a healthful way.

How long should I expect for recovery?

Patients are walking within a few hours of surgery. Physical activity can be resumed as tolerated and most patient are back to normal activity or have improved mobility within one to two weeks of surgery. If you have a non-strenuous job, you can go back to work within two weeks with the clinic's approval. With a more strenuous job, full activity may take an additional two weeks.

When can I start exercising?

A walking program should be in place before surgery to increase your strength and endurance. We encourage you to get out of bed the first day after surgery and increase your activity level each day while you're in the hospital. Our nursing staff will help you. By the time you are discharged from the hospital, you should be able to walk short distances without difficulty.

Will I be able to feel the lap band port?

Yes, but it should not interfere with daily activity or sports participation.

Can the lap band leak? Is it harmful?

A leak in your lap band may occur but is unlikely. If a leak does occur, it is not harmful because the lap band is filled with a safe saline solution.

Can I drink alcohol?

You will become about three times more sensitive to alcohol. You'll need to permanently limit your alcohol consumption to a light level.

What is an Accredited Bariatric Program?

Being an accredited center means you are held to the highest bariatric surgical standards and have quality improvement initiatives in place. Accredited centers are required to report their treatment outcomes and participate in regular evaluations of their surgical programs, ensuring they are meeting safety requirements, consistently improving processes, applying multidisciplinary approaches, and implementing standards of care defined by Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program.

Will my insurance company cover weight loss surgery?

Your insurance company has established criteria that would qualify you for weight loss surgery. Below are some steps and examples of guidelines your insurance company may require before approving your surgery:

  • Start with asking if your policy has benefits for weight loss surgery.
  • Most insurance companies require a body mass index (BMI), a calculated number based on your height and weight, of 40 or greater.
  • You may need to show your previous weight loss efforts. This usually means your primary care physician has documented that you have received weight loss counseling.
  • Before your information is submitted to an insurance company for preauthorization, you will be required to a have psychological evaluation. This will assess whether or not you can comply with the necessary steps involved with this surgery and the lifelong changes you will need to make.

Why am I required to have a psychological evaluation before I have weight loss surgery?

Weight loss surgery is often more stressful than people expect and requires major life changes. After surgery, problems related to depression, anxiety and relationships may come to the surface. People who are feeling emotionally strong and psychologically prepared for the lifestyle change they're about to make tend to be at lower risk for these problems.

What are the next steps?

Here are some steps you can take when moving forward with weight loss surgery:

  1. You are encouraged to attend a free information session.
  2. We ask you fill out some pre-visit paperwork so we are best prepared for your visit. This will include a referral from your primary care physician.
  3. You will meet with the weight loss surgeon to discuss the options and which might be the best fit for you. 
  4. If you decide to proceed with the surgery, a review of your medical records will be done, a physical examination will be performed and additional tests may be ordered. Your information will then be submitted to your insurance company for preauthorization.
  5. If and when your insurance company approves you and we have received the approval letter, the nurse will call you to set up a surgery date.

Will I suffer from constipation after gastric bypass surgery?

Many patients have noticed constipation when they go on a diet. But after gastric bypass surgery, the bowel movements tend to be looser.

How quickly will medical conditions such as high blood pressure and sleep apnea improve?

Within weeks to months following surgery, many patients see medical conditions related to obesity resolve or improve, including high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic heartburn and sleep apnea. Diabetes tends to improve the fastest, and most diabetics end up off their insulin and medications following surgery.

What kind of follow-up is required after gastric bypass surgery? After lap banding?

Gastric bypass surgery requires lifelong monitoring. Patients are seen at various intervals during the first year following surgery and periodically thereafter. For lap banding, patients should be seen monthly for the first year after surgery.

How do I qualify for surgery?

If your BMI is 35 or greater and you have a chronic disease related to weight, you may be a candidate. If your BMI is 40 or above, you may qualify for bariatric surgery without associated health problems. It's also important to make a commitment to:

  • Change your lifestyle which includes a healthy diet, exercise and behavior modification
  • Keep your postoperative appointments with the bariatric team
  • Attend support group meetings in your region
  • Engage in regular exercise for 30 to 45 minutes five to six times a week for life
  • Take the recommend supplements every day for life
  • Get psychological counseling if your doctor recommends it
  • Come and see us in the future if your weight maintenance becomes unsatisfactory

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