Weight Loss Surgery Reverses Respiratory Issues in Obese Patients

Jun 21, 2021

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Of these, over 650 million were obese worldwide in 2016, and the number of obese people nearly tripled since 1975.
Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is a breathing issue that affects obese children and adults. The extra weight forces the respiratory system muscles to work harder than normal. With OHS, your nervous system may respond too slowly while dealing with an excess of carbon dioxide and too little oxygen in your bloodstream. Obstructive sleep apnea may also cause OHS.

Symptoms of OHS

Potential symptoms of OHS and sleep apnea are often similar. Some of the symptoms include you might have include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Irritability and depression
  • Memory and or concentration issues
  • Snoring with pauses due to sleep apnea
  • Labored breathing during activities

Non-Surgical Treatment

The most effective treatment is weight loss, but it is often possible to relieve the symptoms by nocturnal ventilation with positive airway pressure by using a CPAP, which you’ll need a physician’s order for. If you find your OHS is severe then you’ll likely need to visit a hospital and request a ventilator to breathe normally.

Bariatric Surgery

Obesity is a global health epidemic that affects millions of people worldwide. In extremely obese patients, the excess weight takes a toll on their overall health often making them susceptible to life-threatening diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, gout, and respiratory issues. Yet, breathing issues in obese individuals can be reversed when opting for bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery is recommended by a number of doctors and researchers to help anyone obese lose weight. Researchers have pointed out that the effect of weight loss surgery on obese patients singlehandedly reversed the respiratory issues they previously dealt with.

Obesity and Your Lungs

There’s no doubt that obesity harms the respiratory system including compromising airway resistance, increasing respiratory breathing, and reducing muscle strength in the respiratory system. All these elements contribute to restrictive pulmonary function impairment which often restricts lung expansion and eventually leads to decreased lung volume and inadequate oxygenation and ventilation.

Physicians order CT scans as an imaging technology to capture images of the lungs and airways. This shows a glimpse of obesity’s effect on the respiratory system. There are still a few CT studies that provide a clear image of obesity’s impact on the airway and the lungs.

Researchers set out to determine if the respiratory system damage is permanent or can it be reversed after bariatric surgery.

To arrive at the study findings, the team studied the changes in the respiratory tracts of 51 obese patients who had bariatric surgery since diet and exercise didn’t work for them. Bariatric surgery involves reducing the stomach size to accommodate a smaller amount of food intake and promote future weight loss.
One study’s findings observed changes in the respiratory tracts of 51 obese patients who had weight-loss surgery or bariatric surgery, a treatment recommended for obese patients who didn’t respond to other weight loss treatments. This procedure involves reducing the stomach size to accommodate lesser food intake and promote weight loss.

All the participants in the study who had weight loss surgery lost a mean body mass index of about 10.5 kg/m2. To see the respiratory status of these patients, the team used a CT scan to measure the size and shape of the trachea and evaluate for air trapping also called gas trapping. Bottom line is patients had a reduction in lung function, and it appeared they had an obstruction in their airways.

When the team compared CT results before and after the weight loss surgery, they found that the surgery and the resulting weight loss were tied to structural changes in the lungs and trachea. There was reduced air trapping, which is a strong predictor of improvement in breathing issues, and a lower incidence of tracheal collapse.

Reversible Respiratory Issues

The study shows that the respiratory issues experienced by obese individuals are reversible with bariatric surgery. Losing weight has many health benefits, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin sensitivity, and diabetes, better mobility, reduced cancer risk, low gout risk, and reversed breathing issues.

Bariatric Surgery Gives Hope to a Healthier Future

Losing an excessive amount of weight takes courage, discipline, and commitment but you’re not alone. NOVA Bariatrics and Minimally Invasive Surgery understands your goals in treating weight loss and obesity and is with you throughout your entire weight loss journey. Dr. Alibhai and the team at NOVA Bariatrics and Minimally Invasive Surgery have the experience, expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to help you find the best, robotic and non-invasive solution to reduce your weight and restore your health.

Why NOVA Bariatrics?

Over time, obesity along with breathing issues or other life-threatening diseases will cause a breakdown in your body’s systems. This can lead to a deterioration in your health and significantly decrease your life expectancy. Robotic-assisted bariatric surgery is a powerful tool that lets us reverse and prevent you from contracting life-threatening diseases like breathing issues, diabetes, heart disease, gout, cancer and many others associated with extreme obesity.

Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai, MD, FACS, FASMBS is expertly trained in minimally invasive and robotic surgery. He performs a wide range of weight loss and bariatric surgeries. Dr. Alibhai and the surgical team at NOVA Bariatrics understand your weight loss goals and will recommend weight loss options to treat your obesity. Together, their combined experience and expertise go a long way to help those who have been unable to achieve significant weight loss through dieting and exercise alone.


Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai

Dr. Alibhai, a board-certified general surgeon, passionately leads Nova Bariatrics and Minimally Invasive Surgery. Formerly an Assistant Professor at McGovern Medical School, he’s a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons. His academic journey includes a Bachelor’s from Southern Methodist University, Medical School at UT Southwestern, and residencies at UT Southwestern. Specializing further, he completed Bariatric and Robotic Fellowships, advancing surgical techniques with a focus on patient well-being.



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