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Gastric Bypass Surgery: Risks and Benefits

Bariatric surgery has the potential to help you live a long, healthy life as well as to improve the quality of your life. However, it is a complicated medical procedure that is associated with risks. Before deciding to undergo the procedure, you and your surgeon should weigh the risks and benefits.

BENEFITS

  • Gastric bypass surgery, in combination with diet and exercise, can successfully help patients lose 50-60% of excess weight over a period of about two years. Other procedures can result in as much as 80% loss of excess weight. If these positive eating habits and exercise are incorporated into the patient’s lifestyle, the weight loss can be permanent.
  • Gastric bypass surgery has proven to eliminate or lessen the effects of certain weight-related conditions including Type II diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not only does this improve patient health in the short-term, but it also decreases the likelihood of cardiovascular events, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes-related complications later in life.
  • The loss of excess weight will make it easier to be mobile and to perform basic, every-day tasks.

RISKS

  • As with any major invasive surgical procedure, there is a risk of death. This risk changes based on the patient’s age, health status, and other factors. Your doctor will be able to give you a better idea of what the risk is for you.
  • Specific to most weight loss procedures is the risk of a leak into the abdominal cavity from the wall created by the staple line, which can cause peritonitis. This may, in turn, require further hospitalization
  • There is the potential for poor absorption of calcium, iron, and Vitamin B12, which usually occurs in the region of the small intestine that is bypassed during the procedure (the duodenum). This may result in chronic anemia, or iron deficiency anemia. Patients prone to excessive blood loss during menstruation or as a result of hemorrhoids; or at risk for osteoporosis should consult their surgeon.
  • Patients may suffer from rapid gastric emptying – also called “dumping syndrome”. This occurs when undigested food is directed to your small intestine prematurely, and can cause nausea and abdominal cramping. Dumping syndrome can be triggered by consuming too much food or sugar. Some patients must refrain from sweets and high-fat foods entirely after surgery.
  • Blood clots can appear in the legs, and may travel to the lungs, causing a serious medical condition called pulmonary embolism. Smokers are more likely to get blood clots and, for this reason, your surgeon may encourage you to stop smoking before undergoing the procedure. Leg wraps as well as sufficient exercise can reduce the chances of experiencing blot clots.
  • If you have an open (not laparoscopic) procedure, a hernia, or weakness, may occur in an area of the incision. Depending on the severity, further surgery may be necessary to correct it. This complication is less likely to occur with laparoscopic surgery because the incision is substantially smaller in size.
  • Though a rare complication, it is possible that the opening between the top stomach and the small intestine will narrow. In most cases, this can be resolved through an outpatient procedure or, if necessary, additional surgery.
  • Kidney stones, gall stones, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration, stomach ulcers, and intolerance of certain foods are all potential side effects.

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