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What are the risks?

As with any form of surgery, there are potential operative complications and risks which include the following:
  • Haemorrhage (bleeding)
  • Complications due to anesthesia and medications
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the legs)
  • Pulmonary embolus (blood clot in the lungs)
  • Dehiscence (separation of areas that are stitched or stapled together)
  • Infections
  • Leaks from staple lines
  • Marginal ulcers
  • Pulmonary problems
  • Stenosis (narrowing of a loop of bowel or opening)
  • Death


Fortunately, most of these are very uncommon.  In fact according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery 2004 Consensus Statement 1, the operative morbidity (complications) associated with gastric banding in the hands of an experienced surgeon is less than 5% and the risk of dying during the procedure (operative mortality) is approximately 0.1% (1:1000)1.  For gastric bypass in the hands of a skilled surgeon the operative morbidity is around 5% and mortality around 0.5% (1:200). 


Clearly these risks cannot be ignored.  However, they have to be set against the health risks associated with obesity – heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer etc.   Evidence suggests that an obese 20-year-old man may have his life expectancy cut by as many as 13 years compared with normal-weight people2.  For an obese 20-year-old woman, the reduction is 8 years.  Even at 40 years of age, obese males and females lose approximately 7 years of life expectancy3.


Hence if you have a serious weight problem, the risks of a surgical intervention may be very much smaller than the risk of doing nothing.


1.       Buchwald. H.  Concensus Conference Statement.  Bariatric surgery for morbid obesity: Health implications for patients, health professionals, and third-party payers.  J Am Coll Surg 2005; 200: 593-604    

2.       Fontaine KR, Redden DT, Wang C, et al.  Years of Life Lost Due to Obesity.  JAMA. 2003; 289;187-193

3.       Peeters A, Barendregt JJ, Willekens F et al.  Obesity in Adulthood and Its Consequences for Life Expectancy: A Life-Table Analysis.  Ann Int Med 2003; 138: 24-32


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