The Risks of Surgery

As with any major surgery, weight-loss surgery can present immediate and long-term complications and risks. It’s important to talk with your surgeon and other healthcare team members about the risks associated with whatever surgery you choose.

Bariatric surgery requires general anesthesia and several weeks of physical recovery. Depending on the procedure and your condition, your length of stay may vary from same-day discharge to three days.

All abdominal surgeries present the following risks:

  • bleeding;
  • infection in the incision;
  • hernia through the incision;
  • rejection of suture materials;
  • intestinal blockage caused by adhesions;
  • heart or lung issues;
  • risks associated with general anesthesia (similar among obese and non-obese patients).

Weight-loss surgery presents the following early risks:

  • abdominal infection due to leakage of stomach or intestinal fluid through the sutures — a rare but serious complication, typically remedied by a second surgery to drain infection;
  • spleen injury — a very uncommon complication, typically remedied by spleen removal when bleeding can’t be controlled.

Weight-loss surgery presents the following late risks:

  • vitamin or iron deficiency — occurs mildly in up to 40% of gastric bypass patients, and is typically remedied by either oral supplementation or injections;
  • dumping,” or loose stools/abdominal cramps right after eating particular foods — typically can be avoided by not eating the offending foods;
  • ulcer formation within the stomach or small intestine — an uncommon complication, more common among patients who smoke or take arthritis medication;
  • obstruction of the opening of the stoma — a rare complication which occurs when a piece of food becomes lodged, typically remedied by removing the food through an endoscope passed from the mouth to the stomach;
  • suture disruption — an uncommon complication, typically remedied by a second re-suturing surgery.
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