Gastric Sleeve or Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) is a commonly selected weight loss surgery in the United States. The surgery is a major decision that should be analyzed carefully before committing to it. One of the major factors in deciding to go through with such a gastric sleeve surgery is the complications and risks involved. Like all surgeries, there are risks to be considered.
Research data shows that the benefits of gastric sleeve outweigh its risks.
Before you decide to have gastric sleeve surgery, the bariatric doctor near you will discuss all of the options, explain the dangers involved, and evaluate your current health conditions. The professional will need to have a full medical history to assess the exact risks involved for you with this type of surgery. In many cases, it can be advantageous to have your primary care physician’s input on the topic as he or she will know your medical history and potential complications.
Ultimately the gastric sleeve surgical procedure is irreversible as it creates a small pouch for food to go into. Nearly 70% to 80% of the stomach itself is removed completely from the body. This new sleeve keeps portion sizes down and helps patients to reduce weight. It’s important that patients learn how much food their new stomach can handle and to always stop eating when they are full. Excessive eating over time can lead to a stretch out sleeve.
Risks of Gastric Sleeve (VSG) Surgery
During and after gastric sleeve surgery, there are several risks that you will want to be aware of, including:
- Excessive bleeding
- Anesthesia reaction
- Lung and breathing difficulty
- Gastrointestinal system leakage
- Blood clots
- In rare cases, death.
While these risks are associated with post-operative gastric sleeve surgery, several long-term risks and complications should be considered carefully. Most patients take the surgery very well; however, in some cases, there are some problems later in life that are related to the surgery. These complications might include:
- The onset of dumping syndrome with associated diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea
- Bowel obstruction
- Low blood sugar also referred to as hypoglycemia
- Stomach perforation
- Nausea (one of the most common side effects of surgery)
In rare cases, death is related to complications.
Symptoms such as nausea are caused by attempting to eat too much food after your gastric sleeve surgery. Your stomach has been dramatically reduced, so it will be easy to reach the capacity of your stomach with very little food. Nausea can also be caused by not chewing food well enough. Never drink while eating for the first 6 weeks following surgery. To avoid nausea, eat slowly, take small bites, and chew food completely.
Dumping syndrome is a group of symptoms that may develop because of a surgery that removes all or part of a stomach. Also known as rapid gastric emptying, it happens when the stomach’s undigested content moves too quickly through the bowel. Some symptoms include nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. This can occur in gastric sleeve patients that eat too much or too fast following their surgery. To prevent dumping syndrome symptoms, adjust the diet so that light foods that are easy to digest are enjoyed most often.
Other Complications and Risks
Some other possible problems include internal bleeding, spleen injuries, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, stroke, congestive heart failure, stomach perforation, eating disorders, urinary tract infection, gallbladder disease, anemia, weight gain, ulcers, and weakness. Always speak with your doctor to fully understand all risks and complications associated with gastric sleeve surgery before going under the knife.
Many patients find some sensitivity related to the types of foods that they can eat after gastric sleeve surgery. Since the gastric sleeve can reduce the hormone ghrelin production, you may not feel hungry as often as you did before. Food that is high in carbohydrates may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea because the sleeve pushes the food quickly to the small intestine, and this causes an immediate increase in the hormone GLP1, sending the signal to the brain that the stomach is full. Managing a proper diet is essential.
The patient participating in a gastric sleeve surgery will likely lose substantial amounts of weight. This dramatic weight loss can often cause emotional and social difficulty for those individuals. A dramatic weight loss can provide some individuals with a type of identity crisis. These changes can be challenging to manage and may require assistance from counseling or others with the same circumstances in their own lives.
The body will also change dramatically for many patients that find severe weight loss. The body might become soft, skin loose, and the body seems flabby. This can be complicated for the individual and may require advice from a cosmetic surgeon. Several procedures, such as a bra-line back lift, arm lift, and corset trunkplasty, can provide patients with relief from the loose skin that is left behind.
Gastric Sleeve Statistics, Long-term Complications, Risks
Recent studies report that the four most common complications following gastric sleeve are GERD, stenosis, leaks, and bleeding. 1.2% of patients have to bleed, 2.2% of patients experience leaks from their sutures, 1 out of 5 patients develop GERD, and .06% have stenosis. These are all considered minor complications, and all are easy to treat. Another study showed that the total complication rate for the gastric sleeve is about 3.2%, which included these minor complications and dehydration, nausea, vomiting, and reflux. A .019% mortality rate stands for gastric sleeve surgery.
Comparing These Complications to Lap Band Procedure
The main comparison in complications of different weight loss surgeries is between the gastric sleeve procedure and lap band surgery. With lap band surgery, the stomach is not permanently altered like it is during gastric sleeve surgery. During this surgery, an adjustable ring is placed around the stomach, which creates a small pocket where food goes. It has a similar effect as gastric sleeve, but the band can be increased or decreased depending on the patient’s needs and success with their weight loss. Many patients have to go in for adjustments over time.
There are, however, some differences between these two procedures. One major difference is that there is usually a longer recovery time after gastric sleeve surgery due to the discomfort and swelling. Unfortunately, there is also a greater risk of blood clots and gallstones with gastric sleeve surgery. These differences are mainly due to the fact that gastric sleeve is considered major surgery, while lap band surgery is less invasive.
Tips for Preventing Difficulties With Your Gastric Sleeve Surgery
It’s critical to know how to reduce your risk of complications. This includes researching the surgeon you choose, be as detailed as possible with your medical history, discuss all these possible complications and risks beforehand and follow all of the doctor’s orders after your gastric sleeve surgery.
- ObesityAction.org – Gastric Sleeve – Information Detailed in the Gastric Sleeve Procedure.
- National Institute of Health – Gastric Sleeve Results – Find detailed information about the study we referenced.