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Bariatric Surgery Risks


Bariatric surgery is a safe and effective method for long-term weight loss but, like any surgery, there are certain risks involved. We want our patients to be fully informed and fully committed when they decide to have weight loss surgery with Advanced Surgeons.

To that end, we’ve put together a list of risks for the weight loss procedures we perform. We feel it is essential that patients have available all the information they need and are able to make the choice to have surgery.

Is Weight Loss Surgery Safe?

Not only are bariatric procedures collectively the most effective long-term weight loss method, but they are also very safe. A Stanford study of more than 270,000 metabolic and bariatric surgeries revealed extremely low rates of complications. Some of the findings include:

  • Sleeve gastrectomies had a 0.96 percent rate of serious complications after 30 days
  • Gastric bypasses had a 1.25 percent rate of serious complications after 30 days
  • Adjustable gastric banding had a 0.25 percent rate of serious complications after 30 days

However, all surgeries by their very nature carry some inherent risks, and although the complication rates of weight loss procedures in particular are very low, there is still a small chance of complications.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common complications for surgery in general before diving into those of particular procedures.

General Surgery Complications

Nearly all operations pose a small risk for a variety of post-surgery complications. These can include:

  • Anesthesia side effects, including confusion, nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue
  • Infection at incision sites
  • Pneumonia
  • Reduction of blood flow (also known as shock)
  • Sore throat due to breathing tubes and ventilators during surgery
  • Urine retention

At Advanced Surgeons, we work hard to keep these rates of surgical complications as low as possible. We and our partners follow the most stringent safety procedures and best practices, and hold ourselves to the highest standards of cleanliness, hygiene and precision surgery.

Sleeve Gastrectomy Complications

Sleeve gastrectomies are the most popular weight loss procedures in the United States, and for good reason: They work. Their rates of complications are very low, but complications that can arise post-surgery include:

  • Abscesses
  • Bleeding
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Staple line leakage
  • Stricture—a narrowing of the stomach
  • Vitamin deficiencies, including calcium, folate, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc

Gastric Bypass Complications

Long considered the gold standard of bariatric surgery, the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is one of the best established and best tested procedures available. Complications can include:

  • Anastomotic leaks, a leakage at the bypass connections
  • Anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Dumping syndrome, where food (especially sugar) moves too quickly from the stomach to the small intestines
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Other nutritional deficiencies, especially iron and calcium
  • Staple line leakage in the stomach

Adjustable Gastric Band Complications

Adjustable gastric bands are attractive because they are not permanent, unlike sleeve gastrectomies and gastric bypasses. However, their rate of post-surgical complications is fairly high, and for this reason Advanced Surgeons does not perform this procedure. We do, however, fix many adjustable band surgeries that were done by other practices.

Complications of the adjustable gastric band can include:

  • Band erosion—the band wears away at stomach tissue
  • Band slippage
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Port leakage

Biliopancreatic Diversion With Duodenal Switch Complications

Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS) is a somewhat more complex procedure to perform than others such as sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass. Nevertheless, it is still a very safe and effective way to lose weight and keep it off. BPD/DS complications can include:

  • Anastomotic leaks
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gallstones
  • Intestinal irritation and ulcers
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Staple line leak

A Word on Revision Surgery

Revision surgery is sometimes necessary to fix problems with bariatric surgery or to convert from one type to another, such as from an adjustable gastric band to a sleeve gastrectomy, for example. The risks of not having revision surgery usually far outweigh those of the revision.

However, it is generally accepted that revision surgery carries slightly increased risks than first-time bariatric procedures, as evidenced by a small 2013 study published in JAMA Surgery.

Even this is little cause for alarm, though: “Although revisional bariatric surgery is associated with higher risk of perioperative complications compared with the primary procedures, it appears to be safe and effective when performed in experienced centers,” the study’s authors concluded.

If you have weighed the risks and are considering bariatric surgery, request an appointment with Advanced Surgeons. You’ll meet with one of our award-winning, innovative surgeons, who will determine if you meet the qualifications for weight loss surgery and discuss your options with you.

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