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Weight-Loss Surgery: Risks and Complications

Your Guide to a Safe and Healthy Bariatric Surgery

As with any surgical operation, weight-loss surgery carries a certain degree of inherent risk. The most severe complications that may occur with bariatric surgery include intestinal leakage, internal bleeding, pulmonary embolus, and, although very rare, death.

We have been able to minimize the frequency and severity of both major and minor complications by:

  • Carefully screening each patient we see for underlying medical conditions that may lead to complications after surgery. We then optimize your health prior to surgery by treating any condition that may increase your risk.
  • Your operation will be done by two laparoscopic bariatric surgeons in order to minimize the time of the operation, and to maximize the chance of it being done laparoscopically.
  • After surgery, we see you several times each day and once you are discharged we are directly available by pager or cell phone. This allows for and encourages an open line of communication so that serious problems are diagnosed and treated immediately.

Our approach has proven effective. We have had no leaks in our last 250 gastric bypass patients and only one death in our 650 patients.

The following is a list of possible side-effects and complications to consider before having weight-loss surgery. We will discuss these in more detail at your office consultation.

1. Anastomotic leak (leak from a connection made to the bowel, usually requires re-operation and long hospital stay)

2. Anastomotic stricture (narrowing or obstruction at an intestinal connection resulting in vomiting)

3. Bowel obstruction/strangulation/internal hernia/ischemic bowel possibly needing removal (associated with pain and vomiting, usually requires re-operation)

4. Injury to an abdominal or pelvic organ/structure (especially the liver, spleen, pancreas, bile duct, stomach, esophagus, colon, bowel, diaphragm, urinary bladder, nerve or blood vessel)

5. Conversion to an open operation (due to bleeding, poor exposure, large liver, tension on intestines, etc.)

6. Incisional hernia (more likely if procedure is done open)

7. Infection or abscess (due to a leak, spillage of intestinal contents, underlying infection, etc)

8. Bleeding and the potential need for blood transfusion. Blood transfusion carries the risk of infection with bacteria, parasites (malaria), and viruses (hepatitis, HIV/AIDS).

9. Need for additional surgery or procedures to treat any complication that may occur

10. Prolonged hospital stay or readmission may be needed to treat complications

11. Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot in a vein)

12. Pulmonary Embolus (blood clot going to lung, fatal 30% of the time)

13. Atelectasis (lung collapse causing fevers, possibly pneumonia)

14. Pneumonia, lung infection and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)

15. Heart attack (myocardial infarction)

16. Stroke

17. Pancreatitis

18. Rhabdomyalysis (breakdown of the muscle in the body)

19. Pressure ulcer or decubitus (skin breakdown, may require skin grafting)

20. Allergic reaction to anesthesia, medications or materials

21. Nerve or ligament injury from positioning or lying on the operating table

22. Kidney failure and/or the need for dialysis

23. Need for ICU care

24. Need for a ventilator (machine to help you breathe)

25. Multi-system organ failure (liver, kidneys, lungs, etc.)

26. Poor cosmetic results (ugly scar, keloid, unattractive incisions, contour defects)

27. Chronic pain, discomfort, numbness, burning or tingling in the incisions or anywhere else (abdomen, back, extremities)

28. Transient or chronic nausea/vomiting due to strictures, gastroparesis, food intolerance, etc.

29. Dysphagia (difficulty or painful swallowing)

30. Diarrhea, constipation, foul smelling gas and stools

31. Heartburn (acid reflux) symptoms

32. Ulcers or gastritis

33. Intestinal perforation due to ulcer, foreign body, obstructed food, etc.

34. Development of food intolerances/loss of taste

35. Dumping syndrome (abdominal pain, heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, diarrhea)

36. Hair loss or thinning

37. Development of malnutrition or vitamin deficiency

38. Anemia

39. Metabolic bone disease (loosing calcium from the bone because of inadequate intake and supplementation) with possible osteoporosis, secondary hyperparathyroidism and bone fractures

40. Failure to lose an adequate amount of weight

41. Loss of too much weight

42. Development of loose or redundant skin

43. Sterility or inability to become pregnant

44. Increased ability to become pregnant

45. Birth defects or fetal injury if you become pregnant. This is less likely once weight has stabilized and laboratory tests are normal. Usually, about 2 years after surgery.

46. Postoperative depression or other psychological reaction to surgery

47. Need to revise or reverse the procedure at some point in the future because of nutritional deficiencies, excessive weight loss, pain or other reasons

48. Extended disability, financial hardship as a result of complications related to weight loss surgery

49. Parts of your stomach and/or intestines will be inaccessible by endoscopy.

50. Death (1% nationwide, ours is 0.2%[1 in 650.])

Learn more about the benefits and results of bariatric surgery.

Contact us via email or phone or register for an appointment.

Use our free online bmi calculator, meet a Dr. Cirangle, or read about the duodenal switch or morbid obesity.

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