Patient Stories

Gastric Bypass Surgery: Significant Weight Loss and a Bonus—No More Acid Reflux

Jul. 6, 2023

Angi Albertson struggled on and off with weight gain and obesity for her entire life, but recent complications and gastroesophageal issues made daily activities almost unbearable.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night choking on acid,” she says. “It would come up into my throat and wake me from a dead sleep. I was just in horrible pain.” Angi was taking 80 mg of omeprazole daily plus an over-the-counter antacid supplement to combat the reflux. She also took a 200 mg dose of trazodone to help her sleep. Needless to say, she was miserable.

In 2021, she was referred to the UC Health Weight Loss Center and its multi-disciplinary team of physicians, psychologists, nutritionists, nurses and support staff who are committed to long-term success for every patient.

At her first appointment, Angi was measured with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 38 and weighed 236 pounds.

She completed the pre-surgical clinical process, including a comprehensive health evaluation, lifestyle modification education and a pre-surgery nutrition plan.

On Dec. 28, 2021, Angi had gastric bypass surgery, a technique in which the stomach is divided into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower "remnant" pouch with the small intestine rearranged to connect to both, performed by Jen Colvin, MD, UC Health bariatric surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

“Bariatric surgery is minimally invasive and is very effective, with an overall complication rate that is low,” states Dr. Colvin.

“It is important to note that gastric bypass surgery is performed laparoscopically,” adds Dr. Colvin. “It is not the more-invasive procedure from years ago when surgeons performed them as “open” with a larger incision and a longer recovery time.”

“Gastric bypass can work as both a weight loss surgery and an anti-reflux surgery,“ Dr. Colvin says. “In creating the gastric bypass, the acid-producing cells in the stomach are separated from the esophagus/food pipe, thereby decreasing acid exposure and reflux episodes.”

Once the surgery was completed, Angi began to lose the weight, but also experienced a bonus benefit – her acid reflux went away. Today, she no longer has acid reflux or takes medications for it. She has also eliminated sleep aid medication.

Determining which weight loss operation is best for each patient is individualized based on the comorbidities, history, and anatomy of each patient. Your surgeon can help you decide which operation is the best choice for you.

More than 40% of U.S. adults have obesity, and more than 9% have severe obesity, which may raise the risk of developing certain health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and kidney disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

People can lower their risk of developing these health problems through weight loss. However, people who have severe obesity may have a harder time losing or keeping weight off. This is where bariatric surgery enters the picture—and can make a difference.

Today, Angi is happy and healthy, now weighing less than 147 pounds and her BMI is down to 24.

“It was a bit overwhelming before the surgery, but Dr. Colvin was amazing. She is my savior,” Angi said. “She answered all of my questions. She never made me feel foolish for the emotions I was feeling. She was caring and nurturing—that was a huge help.”

According to Dr. Colvin, patients are able to return home shortly after the procedure and are placed on a liquid diet for several weeks. She said that the surgery is not a quick fix—considerable work is required for patients to change their diet, exercise and overall lifestyle habits to ensure success.

“In addition to weight loss, bariatric surgery can help patients with other health conditions,” stated Dr. Colvin. “Like Angi, some can stop taking acid reflux and blood pressure medicine and also better manage their diabetes.”

For Angi, there was an emotional element about having the surgery and her personal weight loss journey afterward, and it has truly transformed her life.

“You have to learn yourself all over again,” she states. “Everyone’s story is different. I know what it feels like to look in the mirror and dislike yourself for what you look like. I am so happy to help anyone along their journey, helping them see that it can be better, and you are capable of making a change. You just have to commit to doing just that!”

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Start your journey today. Call the UC Health Weight Loss Center at 513-939-2263