Bariatric surgery, or, weight loss surgery, is one of the most commonly performed medical procedures today. In all of its various forms, from the classic Roux-en-Y procedure to the lap band or the gastric sleeve surgery, all are well-studied and practiced.
While all of the different procedures are very safe and routine, there is, of course, the chance of risk and complications that come with surgery of any kind. The gastric sleeve is now the most often used type of bariatric surgery performed in the United States.
The good news is that this particular type of surgery carries less risk of complications and a shorter recuperation time. Yet, just as with any surgery, there are certainly possible complications. This article will explore the types and potential ramifications of gastric sleeve post-op problems, as well as their rates of occurrence and risk.
What Is a Sleeve Gastrectomy?
A gastric sleeve surgery works by the same principle as many other weight loss surgeries. It reduces the size of the stomach so that less food can be eaten in one sitting.
Whereas the classic Roux-en-Y bypass cuts out a small pouch of the stomach and attaches it directly to the small intestine, the gastric sleeve works much differently. As the stomach is vaguely shaped like a kidney bean, the sleeve gastrectomy removes much of the curvature of the stomach, leaving a sleeve or banana-shaped stomach that is vastly reduced in volume.
By leaving the essential structure of the stomach intact, several advantages over other types of gastric procedures are achieved. Most importantly, the weight reduction and desired shedding of excess body mass are still present, but there are other benefits.
For one, the pyloric portion of the stomach is left intact, which prevents the “dumping” syndrome so common to the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which is when food enters the small intestine from the stomach too early. Because there are no foreign objects being implanted in the body, like with a lap band, and since there’s no rearranging or reconstruction of the digestive system, postoperative recuperation and recovery times are much shorter.
Like any surgery, especially a completely life-altering one like a bariatric surgery, there are certainly risks, both during and immediately after the operation. Additionally, there is the possibility of developing further complications down the road—complications that are common among all types of weight loss surgery, with some that are specific to a sleeve gastrectomy.
Possible Complications of a Sleeve Gastrectomy
A study found that the gastric sleeve surgery had lower rates of complications than the lap band and gastric bypass procedures, with a lower rate of repeat surgery, as well. 1 Gastric sleeve surgery is, therefore, safer and carries less risk than other forms of weight loss surgery, but, as with any procedure, there are certain risks. Like the other forms of bariatric surgery, it is not reversible, as the main portion of the stomach is permanently severed. The surgery is performed laparoscopically, meaning that there will be minimal scarring.
One of the most common complications is staple line leakage. Once the greater mass of the stomach is removed, the wound must obviously be closed up. Staple line leaks affect just over 2% of all patients, and, in extreme cases, can lead to infection, sepsis, and potentially death.
As doctors and surgeons are aware of the risk of the staple line leaking on the stomach suture, they frequently triple staple it for added security. Infection of the surgery site can be managed with antibiotics or sometimes repeat surgery, depending on the amount of time that has passed since the surgery. In patients with higher starting BMIs, the risk of wound infection is accordingly increased.
As with any and all surgical procedures, there is a risk of blood clots. This can be a potentially life-threatening complication if not treated in a timely manner. Blood clots are a known risk of surgery, and your doctors, surgeons, and treatment team will take all precautions to prevent their forming.
A blood clot after a surgery or injury site in an otherwise healthy blood vessel is called a thrombus, and the risk is that it will come loose from the site and end up causing a blockage in the heart or lung, inducing a heart attack, or pulmonary embolism. Prevention and treatment are managed primarily with anticoagulants, such as heparin or warfarin, or surgery, depending on the size and location.
Fortunately, the risk of developing a clot is quite low, but it’s important to learn the symptoms and be aware of the possibility. Symptoms include pain; swelling; warm, red skin where the clot has formed; and numbness. Following your doctor’s post-operative instructions, including the very effective preventive plan, and list of symptoms to watch out for is very important in the days following your surgery.
A stricture is another possible complication of a gastric sleeve surgery. A stricture occurs when a part of the sleeved stomach becomes inflamed or narrowed. This naturally prevents food from entering or exiting into the stomach, which obviously will present a problem.
These can either occur suddenly or present as chronic problems for a period after surgery. If eating results in nausea, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing, a stricture may be present, and you should contact your doctor.
Fortunately, the treatment for a stricture is rather simple. Often, a dilation procedure performed by inserting a flexible camera down the esophagus is sufficient to dilate the opening and allow normal, problem-free eating and drinking to resume. In some rare cases, depending on the length and severity of the stricture, a surgical intervention may be necessary to either relieve the blockage or to change the gastric sleeve surgery into a gastric bypass.
About Bariatric Care Centers in Houston, TX
Bariatric Care Centers has been steadily dedicated to providing the best care possible for weight loss surgery in the Houston area. We know our patients are more than just what their surgery is, and we pride ourselves on building long-term, lasting relationships with all of our patients.
If you’ve been curious about bariatric surgery, whether or not it’s right for you and what the risks and complications are, Dr. Brian Mirza and his staff are here to help inform you and guide you through every step of the process, from the initial surgery consultation, to the surgery, and all the way through your postoperative care.
We know how hard and frustrating attempting weight loss and seeing no results can be. That’s why we’ve committed ourselves and our state-of-the-art facility to improving the lives of our patients. Because we understand your struggle, and the debilitating pain and damage that obesity can cause, both physical and emotional, you can rest assured that you’ll be treated with nothing but kindness and dignity from all of our staff.
Our team is highly skilled in all areas of obesity and can provide compassionate and detailed care, including guidance and consulting for nutrition, financial, and insurance purposes. Call today and schedule your one-on-one appointment and begin your weight loss journey to a new and healthier you, now!
Disclaimer: This is only for general information. All patients should consult their doctors prior to following any of the recommendations in any articles, posts, or video. Every patient has individual needs and limitations that only their treating physicians can be aware of.
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