Metabolic Surgery

Bariatric and gastric surgery, also known as metabolic or intestinal bypass surgery, is fast becoming one of the most sought-after surgical procedures requested by medical tourists arriving in Costa Rica. This should not be a surprise; after all, morbid obesity in North America has become a serious public health matter. Research studies and investigations into the causes of the rapidly increasing obesity rates have revealed information that seems both surprising and mundane at different times.

Pointing out trends and patterns exposed by some studies do not accomplish much in the way of treating patients who are severely affected by their morbidly overweight conditions. Obesity, when left untreated, can bring about a dangerous spectrum of negative health conditions which can become life threatening.

Weight Loss Treatment versus Surgical Procedures

Some medical tourists come to Costa Rica seeking to lose weight through nutrition and exercise, while others take a more cosmetic approach to weight loss by looking into liposuction. This page does not discuss either of those two methods. For information on weight loss vacations at a spa retreat click here. For information on getting a liposuction in Costa Rica click here.

The high incidence of obesity in North America has made metabolic and bariatric surgical procedures common knowledge among people who suffer from overweight conditions. Many physicians have experienced a high degree of success with these surgeries, and this success has prompted many people to wonder if metabolic surgery is the answer to their immediate weight loss needs.

Bariatric surgery is often called “weight-loss surgery” since the majority of patients manage to significantly lose weight after the surgery. Like many other invasive procedures, this surgical intervention is unlikely to be recommended indiscriminately by a physician. It is usually proposed for patients with body mass index (BMI) readings higher than 40. In some cases, an obese patient with a BMI of 35 who is also suffering from Type 2 diabetes mellitus, and who is also not likely to lose weight within a reasonable amount of time, would be a candidate for bariatric surgery.

Health Benefits

Metabolic or gastric bypass surgery drastically reduces the mortality of obese patients, not only by promoting quick weight loss, but also by somehow eliminating diabetes in most patients. This last benefit is the most significant and still largely unexplained. For many patients who undergo the procedure, the loss of diabetes takes place even before weight loss begins. Researchers are currently conducting studies to determine why this happens, and if there is a way to replicate the fast recovery without surgery.

The effectiveness in treating Type 2 diabetes mellitus alone can be considered the most important benefit. Diabetes is a great human burden, and when combined with morbid obesity it can lead to blindness, loss of extremities, erectile dysfunction, and heart disease.


Reducing stomach size, restricting oral intake and performing gastric bypasses are fairly complex procedures that require considerable skill and efficient recovery. Surgeons in Costa Rica who specialize in these procedures are primarily gastroenterologists, although a few general surgeons become specialized in laparoscopic surgical procedures by studying and practicing in Europe and North America.

The surgical risks associated with these procedures include infections, leaks and hernias. All three complications are preventable, particularly nosocomial infections. Costa Rica has a low incidence rate of nosocomial (hospital-borne) infections, thanks to the implementation of special measures that reduce the risk of transmission.

What to Expect

Although bariatric surgery can be classified as an elective surgery, it is unrealistic for someone to think that jumping on an airplane bound for Costa Rica is all it takes to get started. The process should begin by consulting physicians at home. Patients who are overweight and whose BMI measurement exceeds 35 can ask their doctors about the possibility of bariatric surgery, particularly if they suffer from diabetes, or if it runs in the family.

The decision of the physician at home to either recommend or deter a patient from undergoing metabolic surgery can be corroborated or reconsidered in Costa Rica. Patients can expect that nothing less than a full medical evaluation with laboratory diagnostic tests will be conducted here.

Metabolic surgery can lead to pronounced changes in appearance, leading to portions of epidermis and adipose tissue dangling loose. In some cases, plastic surgery procedures such as panniculectomies can be performed after bariatric surgery. Patients should feel free to discuss with their doctors in Costa Rica about the possibility of getting procedures done to improve their post-op appearance. Patients interested in these procedures can either return to Costa Rica to get them done, or plan for an extended stay.

Recovering from Surgery

Patients aren’t expected to rush to the airport after spending a couple of hours laying on a gurney in the recovery room. Many patients will require assistance in the hospital and even after being discharged. Depending upon the individual reaction to the surgery, some patients may require help with standing up and walking around.

The surgeon may prescribe a series of medications to be taken right after surgery. The medications prescribed may include a vitamin regimen to compensate for the reduced nutritional intake.

In an ideal situation, patients will travel with a loved one or a relative who can assist them in their recovery efforts. If that’s not the case, a patient can arrange for friendly medical and nursing care professionals to help them after surgery.

Nutrition is the most substantial change that patients must learn to adjust to after surgery. Food intake will be drastically reduced, and patients should expect that they will be forced to undergo major changes in basic eating habits like chewing, portion control and meal times.

Exercise will more than likely be on the list of post-op recommendations. While there are plenty of exciting activities such as river rafting and zip line jungle tours that can be enjoyed in Costa Rica, a patient may want to fully recover before engaging in some of the things the country has to offer.

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