In this article, we will explore the differences between digestive surgery and bariatric surgery, two distinct types of procedures that treat various gastrointestinal system conditions. While they may seem similar, these surgeries serve unique purposes and are performed for different reasons.

Digestive Surgery

Digestive surgery, also known as gastrointestinal surgery, encompasses a wide range of procedures that focus on treating disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum. The goal of digestive surgery is to address specific issues or abnormalities in the GI tract, such as tumors, blockages, or inflammation.

Common types of digestive surgery include:

  1. Colorectal surgery: Performed to treat disorders of the colon, rectum, and anus, such as colorectal cancer, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) (1).
  2. Esophageal surgery: Addresses issues in the esophagus, such as esophageal cancer, achalasia, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (2).
  3. Gastric surgery: Focuses on the stomach and is used to treat conditions like peptic ulcers, stomach cancer, and gastroparesis (3).

Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery, on the other hand, is a subset of digestive surgery specifically aimed at promoting weight loss in patients with obesity. These procedures alter the structure and function of the digestive system to reduce the amount of food a person can consume or absorb, leading to significant weight loss. Bariatric surgery is typically recommended for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or those with a BMI of 35 or higher and obesity-related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea (4).

Common types of bariatric surgery include:

  1. Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: This procedure creates a small pouch in the stomach and connects it directly to the middle part of the small intestine, bypassing a significant portion of the digestive tract and reducing nutrient absorption (5).
  2. Sleeve gastrectomy: Involves the removal of around 80% of the stomach, leaving behind a smaller, tube-shaped stomach with reduced capacity for food (6).
  3. Adjustable gastric banding: A silicone band is placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch and limiting food intake (7).


While both digestive and bariatric surgeries involve the gastrointestinal system, they serve different purposes. Digestive surgery focuses on treating various disorders and abnormalities in the GI tract, whereas bariatric surgery specifically targets weight loss in patients with obesity. Understanding these differences can help patients and healthcare providers make informed decisions about the appropriate course of treatment.


  1. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. (n.d.). Colorectal Surgery.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Esophageal Surgery.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Gastric Surgery.
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2020). Bariatric Surgery.

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