What Are The Risks Associated With Bariatric Surgery?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Any surgery has reaction risks associated with the type of anesthesia used, so bariatric surgery certainly offers those risks.  Morbidly obese patients may have sleep apnea, which can pose greater risks for using general anesthesia.  Surgery also typically has the risk of excessive bleeding during or post surgery, and infections that occur during surgery (contamination of surgical site) or post surgery (nosocomial infections always exist in the hospital environment) or due to other chronic conditions that put the patient at greater risk of infection.  Specific to bariatric surgery complications include:

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    • Hernia at the incision site
    • Dehydration
    • Vitamin/mineral deficiency
    • Gallstones
    • Kidney stones
    • Hypoglycemia
    • Bleeding ulcer (stomach)
    • Food intolerance (especially fatty foods)


    More serious complications that can occur include:


    • Death, which can depend on your health prior to surgery and other ongoing health issues.
    • Blood clots to the legs or lungs due to your sedentary state after surgery.  Walking as soon as you can and leg wraps that apply intermittent pressure to your legs can reduce this risk
    • Leaking near the location of staples, which can be resolved with either antibiotics (sometimes) or which may require surgical intervention
    • Pneumonia, which can occur due to the stress the extra weight places on your lungs prior to significant weight loss or hospital-acquired infections
    • Further narrowing of the opening between the stomach and small intestine called a stricture, which can occur during the healing process.  Sometimes a tube can be passed to widen the stricture as an outpatient surgical procedure.  As a last resort, you may need to have this done as a full surgical procedure.
    • Dumping syndrome which means the food you eat passes so rapidly through your digestive tract that you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or sweating as a reaction to this "fast food transit."

    Some of these complications can be avoided.  If you can withstand the discomfort assocoated with walking and movement, as soon as possible post surgery, you may be less likely to risk blood clots and pneumonia.  Your doctor may give you a plastic device with a small ball inside and instruct you to blow out several times daily to move the ball up the cylinder, which helps to keep air flow moving throughout your lungs.  This can help to diminish the risk of pneumonia.  Your doctor may prescribe vitamins to help you to avoid a deficiency and ongoing meetings with a dietician or nutritionist to make sure you get adequate nutrients from your daily diet.  If any family member has had a reaction to anesthesia, then you need to report this to the surgeon and anesthesiologist prior to surgery so they can be fully prepared for the possibility of this event.  Using a board certified surgeon who has years of experience performing bariatric surgery can also help to minimize negative outcomes.


    If you are considered an extreme risk due to your high BMI and/or other complicating health issues, a doctor may decide to hospitalize you and prepare you in-hospital by helping you to follow a strict regimen that encourages some initial weight loss prior to surgery.


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    Next up: How do I prepare for bariatric surgery and what are reasonable expectations?


Published On: February 02, 2011