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Wegovy vs Sleeve Gastrectomy: Weight Loss Medicine Vs Surgery

Wegovy vs Sleeve Gastrectomy

wegovy vs sleeve gastrectomy
wegovy vs sleeve gastrectomy

Are you obese and planning surgery? Are you scared of surgery and want to try medicines first? Are you unsure of the outcome? This article is for you.

Wegovy vs Sleeve Gastrectomy compares the two interventions. Hopefully, it will help you to decide which intervention to opt for.

wegovy vs sleeve gastrectomy
Wegovy vs Sleeve Gastrectomy

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy is the latest medicine that has been approved for weight loss. Among all the weight loss medicines approved by FDA until now, it is considered the most effective and superior to all the other drugs.

Wegovy belongs to the class of drugs called GLP-1 analogs. It is the brand name of Semaglutide which is also available as Rybelsus and Ozempic.

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The key differences between Wegovy, Rybelsus, and Ozempic are:

  • Wegovy is a high-dose formulation of Semaglutide. It is administered in a dose of 2.4 mg subcutaneously once a week.
  • Rybelsus is the oral formulation, available as tablets, and administered daily.
  • Ozempic is also an injectable formulation. It is available as 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg injections and administered once a week.

Wegovy has been FDA-approved only for obesity and weight loss.

Rybelsus and Ozempic have only been approved for the management of patients with Diabetes Mellitus type 2.

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Wegovy has been found in clinical trials to cause marked weight loss by the following mechanisms:

  • It inhibits gastric movements. This causes stomach fullness immediately after the person starts eating. This may also be associated with nausea.
  • It inhibits the absorption of food from the gastrointestinal tract.
  • When food is slowly allowed to enter the intestine, the spike in blood glucose and insulin is lowered. Since Insulin is an anabolic hormone, low insulin spikes after meals cause less weight gain.
  • It activates the satiety center in the brain reducing craving, especially for foods with a high glycemic index.

Wegovy Comparison with Other Weight Loss Drugs

How effective is Wegovy for weight loss?

Wegovy is an injectable high dose once-weekly Semaglutide. It has been found in clinical trials to cause significant weight loss.

Wegovy vs Placebo in Obese non-diabetic Individuals:

The STEP-1 trial evaluated the weight loss effect of Wegovy compared to placebo in obese non-diabetic individuals.

This trial demonstrated a weight loss of 14.9% in the Wegovy group compared to placebo after 68 weeks of treatment.

Wegovy vs Placebo in Obese Diabetic Individuals:

The STEP-2 trial was conducted in obese individuals with Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 who had a BMI of 27 kg/m² or more and glycated hemoglobin of 7 to 10%.

After 68 weeks of therapy, Wegovy resulted in a weight loss of 9.6% compared to 3.4% in the placebo group.

Wegovy vs Placebo in obese individuals with at least one weight-related condition:

The STEP-3 trial was conducted in obese individuals who had a BMI exceeding 27 kg/m² and one weight-related comorbid condition such as diabetes, hypertension, etc.

Patients were given a placebo or Wegovy 2.4 mg once a week along with intensive lifestyle intervention including a low-calorie diet and exercise.

Individuals in the Wegovy group had a weight loss of 16% after 68 weeks compared to 5.7% in the placebo group.

Wegovy for the maintenance treatment of Obesity in non-diabetic individuals:

The STEP-4 trial evaluated whether maintenance treatment with Wegovy in non-diabetic individuals can result in a sustained weight loss or not.

Patients who were treated with Semaglutide (Wegovy) had a sustained weight loss compared to weight gain in the placebo-treated individuals.

wegovy weight loss summary

Wegovy weight loss summary in the four STEPS clinical trials

Bariatric Nutrition Guidelines and Assessment ( Before and After Surgery)

Sleeve Gastrectomy:

Sleeve gastrectomy (SG), also called partial gastrectomy, is a surgical procedure in which part of the stomach is cut. This is primarily done by removing the greater curvature of the stomach to make it tubular.

The greater curvature makes most of the stomach. When the greater curvature is removed, almost half of the stomach is removed reducing the capacity of the stomach to 150 ml or less.

The Capacity of the stomach is reduced to 150 ml

This procedure is becoming more popular, however, it can not be reversed as part of the stomach is removed. Surgical staples are used to keep the newly formed small stomach closed.

Once the capacity of the stomach is reduced, individuals feel full immediately after eating. Apart from the feeling of being full, research suggests that sleeve gastrectomy is also associated with significant hormonal and neurochemical changes.

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These changes are responsible for less food craving, early satiety, reduced satiety, activation of endogenous GLP-1 analogs, and reduction of the satiety hormone, Ghrelin.

Sleeve Gastrectomy is considered a simpler procedure, however, patients have to make lifestyle changes in eating habits including eating small and frequent meals.

Because sleeve gastrectomy is technically simple, it was the most common procedure performed in 2016 for weight loss in the United States.

How Is Sleeve Gastrectomy Performed?

Sleeve Gastrectomy is a much simple procedure compared to RYGB (Roux en Y Gastric Bypass). Because it does not require multiple anastomoses, the risk of internal herniation is minimal, and it does not cause proteins and mineral malabsorption, it is considered a safer bariatric procedure.

It is performed by splitting the antrum proximal to the pylorus and a sleeve is made with a French bougie.

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Sleeve Gastrectomy makes the stomach a tubular structure that has a reduced capacity, is resistant to stretch (since the fundus is absent), and has fewer Ghrelin producing cells. It can also impair stomach motility that may be partly responsible for weight loss.

Sleeve Gastrectomy is safer than RYGB

Individuals who undergo sleeve gastrectomy are more likely to develop gastroesophageal reflux disease compared to those who undergo RYGB.

This is because the stomach becomes a high-pressure organ. Modifications to the procedures are being made to make it more feasible.

Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy is preferred because of being less invasive, however, it is more technical.

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How much weight loss is expected with Sleeve Gastrectomy?

Bariatric surgical procedures are evolving day by day. Every procedure has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Sleeve gastrectomy is a single-stage operation. It is not considered a bridge to RYGB and biliopancreatic diversion.

Sleeve gastrectomy exerts weight loss effects not only by restricting diet, it also alters the secretion of hormones such as Ghrelin, GLP-1, and PYY.

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Sleeve gastrectomy reduced Ghrelin levels and increases the levels of GLP-1 and PYY. These hormonal changes suppress hunger and improve glycemic control by improving insulin resistance.

SG reduced Ghrelin and increases GLP-1 and PYY

Patients who underwent sleeve gastrectomy recorded a weight loss of about 60% after two years of the procedure.

In one study, the mean weight loss, in patients who were morbidly obese, after one year was 45 +/- 17% (ranging from 23% to 79%).

In addition, patients had significant improvement in their weight-related comorbid conditions. This is illustrated in the bar chart below:

effect of laparascopic sleeve gastrectomy on comorbid conditions
The effect of laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy on comorbid conditions [Ref]
Similarly, another study comprising of more than 1000 patients, reported significant weight loss after sleeve gastrectomy.

Patients in the study had a mean BMI exceeding 40 kg/m² and one or more weight-related comorbid conditions.

percentage of weight loss after sleeve gastrectomy
percentage of weight loss after sleeve gastrectomy after one to five years of follow-up.

There was a significant improvement in the resolution of comorbid conditions.

improvement in the comorbid condition after sleeve gastrectomy
improvement in the comorbid condition after sleeve gastrectomy [Ref].

Wegovy vs Sleeve Gastrectomy:

There hasn’t been any head-to-head comparison of Wegovy vs sleeve gastrectomy. However, both weight-loss interventions have their own advantages and disadvantages.

This is summarized below:

Wegovy use for Weight loss is much safer than Sleeve Gastrectomy:

  • Wegovy is a medical intervention, hence it is way safer than Sleeve Gastrectomy. Patients who opt for Wegovy treatment have to inject the drug weekly into the skin of the anterior abdomen.
  • Contrary to that, Sleeve gastrectomy is a surgical procedure. It is associated with short-term complications such as:
    • Hospitalization
    • Anesthesia
    • Surgical-site bleeding
    • Bed-sores
    • Pulmonary embolism, and
    • Infections

Wegovy is less effective than Sleeve Gastrectomy:

  • Wegovy is less effective compared to Sleeve gastrectomy. It has been shown to cause about 16% weight loss from the baseline.
  • On the other hand, sleeve gastrectomy has been shown to cause a weight loss of about 60% from the baseline.
  • The chances of weight gain after treatment discontinuation is greater with Wegovy compared to Sleeve gastrectomy.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy is way safer in the long run. Contrary to that, Wegovy use can be associated with significant complications such as pancreatitis and an increased incidence of medullary thyroid carcinoma.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy has been found to reverse some of the major complications associated with obesity. These include:
    • Diabetes,
    • Hypertension
    • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
    • Dyslipidemia
    • Degenerative joint diseases
    • Back pain, and
    • Edema

Wegovy Comparison with Other Weight Loss Drugs

Wegovy is cheaper in the short term but costlier than Sleeve gastrectomy in the long run:

  • The average cost of a Sleeve Gastrectomy ranges from USD 12000 to USD 57000 (depending on the area). The monthly cost of Wegovy is around USD 1300 per month (without insurance coverage). This is equivalent to USD 15600 per year. So, it is much cheaper in the short term but very costly in the long run.

In Conclusion:

  • The Weight loss effects of Sleeve Gastrectomy are far better than Wegovy. Furthermore, it is much cheaper in the long run and maybe safer too.
  • In moderate obesity, Wegovy may be used, and especially if one wants to avoid surgery. However, in morbid obesity and in patients with genetic obesity, sleeve gastrectomy is probably the preferred option.

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What do you think?

Written by Diabetes Doctor

I am an Internist practicing medicine for the last fifteen years. Over the years, I have learned that medicine is not about prescribing pills. True medical practice is helping people.
I do prescribe pills as well but the best results I get are when I motivate people to overcome their problems with little changes in their lifestyles.
Since most of my patients are obese, have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, I am writing at when free.
Dibesity, I know the correct word is diabesity. Ignore this! Be with us.

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