Many people around the world who suffer from being drastically overweight, or those who are morbidly obese, are considering bariatric surgery to help them on their weight loss journey. While this is one option, it is important to note that there are often complications that come with this or any other kind of surgery. Here is a look at some of the complications one should consider when thinking about undergoing bariatric surgery.
One complication that 1 in 3 patients experience is the possibility of gallstones. After the surgery, patients who follow the diet that is used to have rapid and quick weight loss results may develop gallstones. Many patients are given bile salts to take for up to six months after they have their surgery to help prevent this. However, studies have shown that even when taking these bile salts, patients may still develop gallstones and it is estimated that up to 7% of patients may have to have their gall bladder removed after bariatric surgery.
Another complication that one should take into consideration even though it is very rare, is pulmonary embolism. This occurs when there is a blood clot in the leg and it breaks off and goes to the lungs. While in some cases death is a possibility, in other cases patients find themselves developing shortness of breath and pain in their chest. To help prevent pulmonary embolism, surgeons will give patients blood thinners and compression stockings. The patient will also be encouraged to get up and move around as soon as possible after surgery.
Bowel obstruction can occur in up to 4% of bariatric surgery patients. These bowel obstructions are caused by scar tissue that builds up in the abdomen, or a kinking that may occur in the bowel. Patients may develop bowel obstructions shortly after their surgery or as late as years after the surgery. If one starts to experience extreme nausea, vomiting or stomach pain, they should seek immediate medical care because an emergency operation will likely be needed.
Lastly, while no one wants to consider it, patients should always remember that even death can be one of the bariatric surgery complications. While it is extremely rare, there are some patients who die during or because of this surgery. It is important to note that these patients usually have an underlying health problem such as lung or heart disease, but death can also occur from surgical problems such as blood clots to the lungs as mentioned above.
Types Of Bariatric Surgery
Lap Band Surgery (System):
With the lap band system, which is a long-term treatment for the severely obese, a silicone elastic band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. This creates a small pouch and restricts the amount of food that can pass through, as well as creating a feeling of being full.
This band, once in place, can be adjusted externally to allow more food to pass through if needed, or to further restrict the amount allowed to pass through.
The lap band procedure is typically performed by a technique called laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgery which is fairly easy on the body, allowing for a quicker recovery time. This procedure normally takes under an hour to perform and patients usually require less than 24 hours hospitalization afterward.
Vertical Banded Gastroplasty (VBG)
This gastric banding surgery procedure, which is also typically performed using laparoscopic surgery, is a more permanent change to your body and is a purely restrictive procedure. The upper stomach is stapled and divided during this process, reducing its size and the amount of food it will hold, thus decreasing one’s appetite and creating a feeling of being full.
VBG takes a little more than an hour to perform and hospital time is usually a few days, with normal activities allowed to resume in about 1-3 weeks. Because people generally have more complications and less weight loss using this procedure, it is used less frequently than other weight loss surgeries.
Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass
Performed more frequently than any other weight loss surgery in the U.S., gastric bypass also involves stapling the upper part of the stomach, and it further involves attaching part of the intestines to the pouch created by the stapling. This allows for an even quicker feeling of fullness along with a smaller absorption of calories.
Either open or laparoscopic surgery can be used to perform gastric bypass, and this type of surgery is irreversible. This surgery is not for everyone as there are a number of criteria that must be met before it can be performed. A patient is advised to try and lose weight through a healthy diet and exercise for an extended period of time before considering this type of surgery.
As with any major medical procedure, one should always discuss the pros and cons with their surgeon and doctor to decide which weight loss surgery is right for them. Many variables need to be taken into consideration before a final decision is made, and the surgeon can help you to make the most appropriate choice for you and your circumstances.