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Weight Loss Surgery – It’s Complicated

Every year, thousands of people undergo weight-loss surgery.  The most common procedures include gastric sleeve, lap-band and gastric bypass.  Each has its own risks and benefits, and each can have catastrophic results if a medical mistake is made.  This article will review the risks and benefits, and what can happen if when things go terribly wrong.

With the gastric sleeve, a large portion of the stomach is removed, often with the assistance of the DaVinci robot, and the remaining smaller pouch of your stomach is stapled together.  This allows the patient to feel full sooner after eating, which in turn causes weight loss.  There are serious risks, including the risk of leaks, which allow the stomach contents to flow into the abdominal cavity.  This can lead to severe infection, pleural effusion, pneumonia, sepsis and numerous other serious consequences including death.  There has been extensive litigation involving these leaks, some caused by a physician or other health care professional failing to recognize the leak prior to discharge and other cases arising because a physician mishandles the leak when it presents itself.  Either way, the results can be deadly.

The next type of weight loss procedure is the lap-band, which is often performed laprascopically.  The lap-band is an adjustable band that is wrapped around the top of your stomach, leaving a small pouch above the band.  This small pouch will make you feel full soon after eating and help you to lose weight quickly.  There is a port just below the skin that allows the treating physician to insert fluid into the band to tighten and loosen the band for optimal results.  Should the physician fail to monitor the band, or fill the band too tightly, this can result in erosion of the stomach, and actual perforation of the stomach with similar results to the gastric sleeve.

Perhaps the most invasive type of weight loss surgery is the gastric bypass, or the Roux-en-Y procedure.  With the bypass, your stomach is actually split into two parts with a small pouch at the top, and the rest at the bottom.  The physician will move your intestines and resect them so that the top part of your small intestine is actually bypassed, and the portion below is joined to the small pouch remaining from the stomach.  While this can help you to lose weight quickly, it can also result in malnutrition and dumping syndrome.  Your body will also not be able to absorb as many minerals.

Other complications from these surgeries can include vomiting, malnutrition, chemical fluctuations and other serious consequences, and as a result any pain, fever, excessive vomiting or fatigue should be reported immediately and treated promptly.  If you opt for weight loss surgery, remember it is a serious and invasive procedure, and should not be taken lightly.  If you suspect your physician has made a medical mistake during or after one of these many weight loss surgeries, make sure to seek medical attention immediately.  Your life may depend upon it.

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