Risks of Gastric bypass surgery

Just as there are benefits of this surgery there are unfortunately risks as well: and these have to be balanced against the likelihood of you developing a serious, long term illness as a result of your excessive weight.

It is important to say that ALL surgery is risky: every surgical procedure carries a small amount of risk but if you think of the thousands of operations performed then it is extremely low.

Complications can arise, whether during surgery or afterwards and it is an issue that you need to be aware of. As part of your initial discussion with your surgeon or healthcare professional they will mention the risks as well as the benefits.

One way to approach this is this: if you do not have surgery then there is the chance of you developing an obesity-related illness which can mean long term misery. You may have to live with poor health on a day to day basis. You will be restricted in what you can do. Career opportunities could be limited. And, research shows that obesity can reduce your life expectancy by as much as 8 years!

Any surgery is risky for someone who is obese but this surgery is carried out by competent, experienced surgeons who are well aware of this risk.

However, there are risks which are as follows:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs)
  • Leaking of fluids around the stapled stomach pouch or at the ‘Y’ part of the small intestine.
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs)
  • Ulcers
  • Adverse reaction to anaesthesia or medication.
  • Stenosis: this is a condition in which the join between the stomach pouch and small intestine narrows or even closes up.
  • Death. This is rare but it can happen. Accounts for 0.5% of cases.
  • Dumping syndrome – see below.

Dumping syndrome is the name given to a condition in which food passes or is ‘dumped’ too quickly from the stomach pouch into the small intestine. It tends to happen with sugary foods and causes symptoms of nausea, vomiting, sweating, heart palpitations, dizziness and stomach cramps. Diarrhoea may also occur. It can happen with a range of foods but is particularly a problem with anything sweet or sugary.

As this food is rapidly dumped it triggers the release of a large amount of fluid in the stomach. Food is normally broken down by digestive juices but for patients who have had gastric bypass this ability is reduced. This means that there is a real risk of this syndrome happening.

Some people may see this is a positive rather than a negative as it prevents you from ‘cheating’ by eating something sugary. It is your body’s own way of ‘punishing’ you for making an unwise food choice. It can happen straight after a meal (‘early dumping’) or a few hours after you have eaten (‘late dumping’).

The symptoms are fairly alike in both cases although with late dumping they are very similar to hypoglycaemia.

Either way it is unpleasant and will make you feel unwell for a few hours afterwards. You will have to let it take its course and the best way of doing this is to have a lie down. The symptoms will disappear after a period of time.

Gastric Bypass Surgery Guide sections

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