What is gastric bypass surgery?
Gastric bypass surgery is similar to gastric banding in the way it divides the stomach to create a small pouch at the top. However, instead of the food passing normally on to the rest of the stomach for digestion, a section of small intestine is grafted on to the end of the first stomach section, bypassing the rest of the stomach.
The risks of gastric bypass surgery
As with all operations that involve general anaesthetic, gastric bypass surgery carries risks. However in this case, the complexity of the procedure means that these risks are significantly higher, with some studies showing a fatality rate as high as one in fifty patients within thirty days of the surgery.
The fact that patients undergoing weight loss surgery are usually morbidly obese increases the problems associated with gastric bypass surgery. Being so overweight often mean you have heart problems, breathing difficulties, and general poor health and fitness, which clearly complicate the procedure and raise the risk level.
This article on gastric bypass surgery is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Although gastric bypass can be done laparoscopically (keyhole surgery), the size of the patient and amount of body fat around the surgery site often means this is not possible. The alternative ‘open’ surgery naturally carries higher risks, and the larger wound site is far more prone to infection.
There are a range of complications which can occur during the surgery itself, including:
Post operative complications
The most common post-op complication with gastric bypass surgery is leakage, from either the stomach staples or the intestinal graft site. This can cause peritonitis and can be life threatening. Leakage occurs in around one in twenty operations.
Changes in the make up of the stomach leads to ulcers in around 4% of cases, while the poor muscle tone and general health of obese patients means there is a 2.5% risk that the wound will herniate.
Nutritional deficiencies after gastric bypass surgery
By far the largest risk with gastric bypass surgery is nutritional deficiency following the procedure. Since you are bypassing the normal digestive route, you will not absorb fats and other nutrients in the same way that you used to. This can lead to a wide range of deficiencies, including major vitamins and minerals that are vital for good health.