Gastric bypass vs liposuction: choosing the best one for you

There are many different weight loss procedures and cosmetic surgeries that can help you lose weight. Some might also solve several obesity-related health problems, while others are only designed to remove your body fat. Among so many options available, you should focus on your needs and find the best treatment for yourself.  When it comes to gastric bypass vs liposuction, which procedure is the one you should consider if you want to get rid of your excess weight?

Which is more effective for obese patients?: Gastric bypass vs liposuction

You need to remember that aesthetic treatments, such as liposuction, aren’t a cure for obesity and therefore can’t replace weight loss surgery like a gastric bypass. Both procedures have different purposes, complications, recovery processes, and costs. So, if you wonder which is better liposuction or gastric bypass, have a closer look at some details of these very different kinds of surgeries and the way they can affect your weight loss.

Purpose of the surgeries

First of all, gastric bypass remains the gold standard among all bariatric procedures. It’s a malabsorptive and restrictive medical treatment for obesity that helps you lose excess weight by changing how your stomach and small intestine work. Meanwhile, liposuction for weight loss is a cosmetic procedure, in which suction removes fat cells from specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen.

The purpose of gastric bypass surgery is to make you lose over 80% of your unwanted body weight within the timeframe of 18 to 24 months following the surgery. Most importantly, you undergo this surgery not only for effective weight loss but also for health reasons. The treatment of liposuction, on the other hand, shapes your figure, and this process is called contouring, or body contouring. This procedure may be a good option in case you have some stubborn pockets of body fat in specific places but otherwise, your weight is in a range of 20-25 BMI.

So to say, one of the reasons why bypass has such great results is that you have to change your lifestyle in order to succeed after the surgery. With cosmetic fat reduction surgery, you can continue an unhealthy diet, regain your excess weight, and not be able to get your health back on track.

How they work differs

Both procedures are carried out differently. When it comes to a gastric bypass, the food will no longer go into big parts of your stomach and small intestine, so it’s not going to be absorbed. For this reason, you’ll start losing weight very quickly and follow a healthy diet suitable for gastric bypass patients. In liposuction however neither your stomach nor intestine will be changed. There are different types of this procedure, but the most popular technique is the suction-assisted one, which means the doctor is going to remove your stubborn fat.

The gastric bypass procedure itself consists of two major steps. Your stomach is divided into an upper part and a lower part. Then a part of the intestine is rerouted and attached to the upper part of your stomach. While the liposuction procedure, the surgeon injects a mixture of sterile solution and medicines into the area. The solution aids fat removal, and medicines relieve pain, as well as minimize bleeding. Then he or she creates small cuts into your skin and inserts a thin tube called a cannula, which is connected to a vacuum that suctions both fat and fluids.

Surgery itself is a different concept

Keep in mind that a surgical treatment such as liposuction isn’t a cure for obesity problem and that’s the chief difference from a gastric bypass surgery.

Liposuction is an aesthetic intervention, not a treatment for serious conditions like high cholesterol levels, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea. If you suffer from such health problems, keep in mind that gastric bypass is a solution for those. In the case of liposuction, your stubborn fat cells are taken out during the process and do not grow back in that specific area.

If you’re looking for a long-term solution to your weight loss and obesity-related chronic diseases, you should consider weight loss surgery, such as gastric bypass. This sort of procedure changes your digestive system and affects your appetite and lifestyle.

How much weight you lose differs

Another difference between liposuction and gastric bypass is weight loss. Gastric bypass is a metabolic surgery, which can result in even up to over 70% of your excess weight. Most liposuction patients on the other hand lose approximately 2 kg of fat from this procedure, a maximum of up to 5 kg.

In gastric bypass, your weight loss doesn’t happen immediately because it’s a long weight loss journey process that takes approximately between 1 and a half to 2 years. Liposuction on the other hand is designed for removing isolated, excess fat cells in specific areas. It does result in some weight loss as a side effect. Its main reason, however, is to change how you look. For the best results, you need to be relatively healthy and with a BMI of 18,5-25.

Recovery process is distinctive

Liposuction and gastric bypass differ when it comes to the healing process. After gastric bypass surgery, you will start your recovery process at the hospital. You will be at the hospital for 2–4 days for medical observation. After your liposuction operation, you can go home the same day. However, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight for observation, in case you had a major amount of fat removed.

You will get a compression garment for your abdominal area after your liposuction. You may also have small drains placed at the surgical sites. You will most probably return to work in 2 weeks following the procedure. It’s not necessary to use compression garments after gastric bypass surgery, however, doctors recommend them for your legs. It’s safe to go back to work in 2-3 weeks following the gastric bypass procedure, depending on how you’re feeling.

During the first 6 weeks following your bypass surgery, you’ll be on a diet, starting from a liquid one, which will gradually include also solid foods. While your one-year recovery, you’ll have from 4 to 6 follow-up appointments for blood checkups in order to see if you are lacking any nutrients. When it comes to liposuction, after a month you won’t be feeling any pain anymore, and sometime later most of your bruises and swelling will go away. At this point you’ll likely no longer need your compression garments.

Here are some gastric bypass vs liposuction recovery process differences listed for you:

2-4 days hospital stay for medical observationNo need for a hospital stay unless otherwise specified
Compression socks to prevent blood clotsCompression garment for the stomach area
Back to work in 2-3 weeksBack to work in 2 weeks
Specific diet after the surgeryNo diet required
1 year recovery + check-ups1-month recovery, no checkups specified

Risks and complications also vary

Both of the procedures may result in typical immediate post-op complications, which include reactions to anesthesia or other medications, bleeding, or infections. In general, while gastric bypass risks include more stomach-related complications, liposuction surgery includes more skin-related problems. In addition, gastric bypass problems can happen either in the short term or in the long-term; liposuction problems show up in the short run.

Liposuction complications can appear in the form of bruising, swelling, skin redness, discoloration, or any sort of irregularities and contour deformity; in extreme cases – skin necrosis. Short-term bypass risks include dumping syndrome, bowel obstruction, or constipation, while long-term problems usually occur as malabsorption, strictures, hiatal hernia, and gallstones.

Differences in pocket

Liposuction vs gastric bypass costs also differ. The price of gastric bypass varies between 5-35K. Since liposuction is less complicated, it’s also cheaper. The price of a liposuction procedure can range from 3K for one body area up to 15K for a full-body treatment.

Gastric bypass cost includes pre-op care, tests, the surgery itself, post-op care, and check-ups. It’s also related to different factors, such as country, facility, and bariatric surgeon that will perform the procedure. Also when it comes to liposuction surgery, its price depends on the country and other services provided by a specific clinic.

Maclellan WC, Johnson JM. Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass: Still the Gold Standard? Surg Clin North Am. 2021 Apr;101(2):161-175. doi: 10.1016/j.suc.2020.12.013. PMID: 33743961.

Wu S, Coombs DM, Gurunian R. Liposuction: Concepts, safety, and techniques in body-contouring surgery. Cleve Clin J Med. 2020 Jun;87(6):367-375. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.87a.19097. Erratum in: Cleve Clin J Med. 2020 Jul 31;87(8):476. PMID: 32487557.

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