There is one key difference with respect to surgery for weight loss compared to most other surgeries: This is a completely elective operation that you do not need to have in order to survive.
You may benefit tremendously from weight loss surgery however, and many of your medical problems may get better after surgery, but you do not need to have this operation. As with any surgical procedure there is a risk of dying. Please think about this and discuss it with your family. This is not something to be taken lightly.
Risks of weight loss surgery include:
Additional risks with gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy surgeries include:
- Excessive bleeding from any one of several places we need to cut in order to do the operation. You may require a second operation and / or a blood transfusion if this occurs.
- A blood clot can form in your legs and possibly travel to your lungs. If this happens, it can sometimes be fatal.
- Infection can occur at any number of sites after the operation. This could require a second procedure.
- Hernias can occur at one of several locations which may require another operation to fix. This can occur even many years after the operation.
- Conversion to open: It is possible that we will not be able to complete your operation with the laparoscope. In that case, you will need a larger incision and this will result in a longer hospital stay and recovery.
- Strictures are a narrowing of the connections we make. They can occur at anytime after the operation and prevent food from passing easily. Strictures can usually be treated by dilating the connection, but sometimes require another operation.
- Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can be serious and cause permanent damage. The operation makes it possible to become deficient in several important minerals and vitamins. It is therefore critical that you take the recommended supplements every day.
- Failure of Weight Loss: You may not loose all the weight you expect, or you may gain some weight back. This often depends tremendously on your compliance.
- Loose skin is quite common after the operation. Many patients will desire plastic surgery. These procedures are often not covered by insurance.
- Psychiatric Disorders: The stress related to undergoing such a drastic life change may worsen pre-existing depression, anxiety or other psychological problems. Sometimes patients get depression or anxiety for the first time after the procedure.
- Leaks can occur from one of the internal incision sites (staples/suture sites) and almost always require a second operation with the placement of temporary drainage tubes and a feeding tube, as well as a prolonged recovery.
- Ulcers can form due to the decrease size of the newly created stomach pouch, causing pain and/or bleeding. These can usually be treated with anti-ulcer medications, but some patients will require another operation to treat the ulcer. Aspirin and pain-relievers like Motrin, Aleve, Celebrex, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) cause ulcers and should never be taken after gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy surgeries. Alcohol and smoking can also cause ulcers and must be avoided.
- Kidney stones can also occur primarily after gastric bypass surgery, but can usually be prevented by drinking plenty of fluids (preferably water) each and every day.
There are also other complications that are not listed above which can occur after weight loss surgery. We will do all that is possible to prevent and/or minimize the chances of any of these complications from occurring. However, it is critical that you follow-up with our team and primary care physician for the rest of your life so that if these problems do occur, they can be treated early and with minimal discomfort or inconvenience on your part.