Complications and Risks: Gastric Bypass

Gastric Bypass Surgery

Simplified Guide to Complications and Risks of Gastric Bypass

If gastric bypass surgery is something that is on your mind you will need to be sure that you are fully aware of all of the risks involved before making your decision. Like all surgical procedures there are complications and risks to be concerned with when deciding if the surgery is the right choice for you and your family.

The weight loss surgery procedure is typically recommended to individuals who are either morbidly or super obese and have not been able to lose weight through other methods. This level of obesity can be detrimental to one’s health and put them at a higher risk for stroke, heart disease, heart attack, Type II Diabetes and have a shorter lifespan.

During gastric bypass surgery all food will bypass the large part of the stomach into a smaller pocket. This allows patients to get full faster, reduces the amount of food they consume and allow them to lose weight and keep it off continuously in a restrictive manner. This is a highly successful surgery; however it does have a series of side effects that may occur after the surgery.

Associated Risks

Some of the risks associated with gastric bypass surgery, during and after the surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Trouble breathing
  • Gastrointestinal leakage
  • Narrowing of the opening between the bypass location and the stomach
  • Blood clots
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Death (rarely)

The risks are typically discovered during or shortly after the surgery and addressed at the time. However, there are some risks and complications that can be a problem later and are considered to be long term risks:

  • Hernia
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood sugar
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Gallstones
  • Ulcers
  • Osteoporosis
  • Deficiencies of nutrition
  • Weight regain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Most Common Complications After Gastric Bypass

  • Reduced Amount of Nutrient Absorption

    This is a common side effect that occurs after gastric bypass surgery. Because the procedure is restrictive and malabsorptive in nature, gastric bypass patients will experience nutritional deficiencies which will affect how the body functions. Nutritional supplements must be taken post-op in order to feel 100%.

    This also includes vitamins such as B12, iron and calcium. Nearly half of all gastric bypass surgery patients develop anemia. Your surgeon will provide you a detailed list of nutritional and vitamin supplements that should be taken daily and/or regularly for optimal health.

  • Dehydration

     Staying hydrated is one of the most important steps to one’s recovery. If someone is not used to drinking large amounts of fluids before surgery, this can be a hard adjustable period. It is imperative to stay hydrated to help digestion especially during this major change. Patients should drink about two liters of water or any liquid (non-carbonated) each day. Failure to do so can lead to nausea, vomiting, headache, nutritional deficiencies or digestive problems.
  • Nausea and Vomiting

     Nausea and vomiting are both common side effects during gastric bypass surgery recovery. Dehydration, changes in the vitamins and minerals in the body as well as eating changes all contribute to the risk of developing nausea. Some ways to help keep nausea at bay are eating slowly, eat smaller meals, drink plenty of fluids, chew food thoroughly and avoid eating any tough foods. Occasional nausea can be normal, but if it is happening often, consult your surgeon.  
  • Dumping Syndrome

     Dumping syndrome is one of the most dangerous and serious side effects of gastric bypass surgery.  This occurs when the stomach empties all of the contents into the small intestine too fast. This occurs when one eats too greasy or too fatty foods or those high in sugar. This can result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, constipation and other side effects.
  • Psychological Risks and Complications

    In addition to the medical complications and risks that are possible as a result of gastric bypass surgery, there are some potential psychological risks associated with having the surgery. Some patients find that the significant weight loss changes their lives so dramatically that they are at a loss as to identity. In addition, there are patients that have trouble managing these differences and find themselves partaking in excessive alcohol or drug use in order to cope. There are some individuals that do not know how to manage the changes and will require help from a group therapy or individual therapist to learn how to manage their new body. 
  • Lifestyle and Food Complications

     Once the surgery has been completed and the individual begins a dramatic weight loss, there can be a great deal of adjustment to changing the way that food is approached. You may have to change the types of food that you eat such as avoiding carbohydrates to avoid dumping syndrome and staying clear of spicy foods to keep the stomach acids in check. Individuals will also need to be mindful of choosing foods that are of benefit to their body since there is very little room in the stomach to begin with. Most physicians will recommend that the patient implements a regular exercise plan as well in order to stay fit.  

Other Considerations

Excess skin and flab can be present for patients that lose a great deal of weight quickly with a gastric bypass. This can be problematic on several levels including how they buy clothes, how they see themselves and how they are able to clean properly. Removing this excess skin can be done with the help of a cosmetic surgeon. This is an option you will want to talk to your primary care physician about if this is a problem for you.

There are different types of short term and long term effects of having gastric bypass surgery. The surgery itself can cause excessive bleeding, breathing and lung problems, infections, blood clots and gastrointestinal leaks. Some of the long term risks associated with this weight loss surgery include bowel obstruction, vomiting, low blood sugar, gallstones, ulcers, hernias and osteoporosis. The type of long term risks will suffer will depend on the type of surgery they have.

Patient’s risk stems from the opening that lies between the patient’s intestines and their stomach becomes narrower than it was before. Ultimately follow up visits are important and help to reduce the likelihood that any risks shall arise following one’s gastric bypass surgery.

While not all of these side effects will occur following your gastric bypass surgery, you may have other complications. Always consult your doctor if you experience something unusual following your surgical procedure.