It's natural to be concerned about the risks associated with gastric bypass and gastric banding surgery, since some complications associated with weight loss surgery can be fatal.
A recent study by University of Washington researchers found the fatality rate from gastric bypass surgery can be as high as 5% for younger patients, and 50% or more for older patients.
Less experienced surgeons and obesity clinics have the highest rates of complications. It makes sense to discuss the possible risks with your doctor before agreeing to the surgery, and to find out how many previous surgeries they have performed, along with their outcomes.
Gastric Banding Complications:
It appears there are fewer complications after Lap-Band weight loss surgery, which restricts the size of the stomach but does not change the intestinal tract or cause the malabsorption of nutrients. The most common risks of this type of procedure are nausea, vomiting and gastroesophageal reflux.
Since this type of procedure does not cause the "dumping syndrome" common to gastric bypass surgeries, Lap-Band patients are still able to eat sugary and high-fat foods in small quantities. This may be why these patients lose weight slower than those who undergo a more invasive gastric bypass surgery.
Gastric Bypass Complications:
There is a longer list of common complications and risks associated with the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure, but many surgeons and obesity centers prefer to offer this type of surgery because of it's overall safety record and the fast weight loss experienced by most post-gastric bypass patients. Among the common complications are:
* Bleeding, either internally and at the site of incision.
* Leakage around the internal sutures, causing food or liquids to exit the digestive system into the abdominal wall.
* Internal and external infections.
* Gallstones due to significant weight loss in a short amount of time, which will often require a return to the operating room, and which may be life-threatening.
* Gastritis, an inflamation of the stomach lining.
* Vomiting, if too much food is eaten at one time.
* Malabsorption of Iron or vitamin B12, which can lead to anemia.
* Malabsorption of calcium, which can contribute to bone loss (early osteoporosis) or other bone disorders.
* Dumping Syndrome - including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a bloated feeling, dizziness and sweating. These symptoms can be somewhat controlled by following a strict diet and continuing with nutritional counseling after your surgery.
* Emotional issues resulting from rapid weight loss and a change in the patient's self-image, or changes in family relationship dynamics after the surgery.
Any operation comes with risks, and obese patients have even greater than normal risks due to common conditions associated with their excess weight, such as diabetes or heart disease. Your surgeon will carefully monitor your progress after surgery to reduce the risk of infections, pneumonia or pulmonary embolism.
The care you receive after your surgery is particularly important, because this is when the medical staff at the hospital can discover any problems, such as leakage and infection, which will need immediate emergency surgery or treatment.
It is also important to keep up your regular exams after surgery, and follow the diet and other advice given you when you're released from the hospital. Some problems such as infection, pneumonia and gallstones can be fatal if not treated in time, and may occur after you go home.
Since the outcomes of surgery are much more positive if the surgeon and staff of the obesity center are experienced in this type of surgery, you may want to insist on treatment only at a bariatric surgery facility that has been designated as a Center of Excellence. Your health insurance company will be able to help you find a Center of Excellence in your state.