If you’re considering bariatric surgery such as gastric sleeve surgery, then you’re probably also wondering about the possible side effects after gastric sleeve surgery - it's only natural!
Dr Ken Wong is a skilled metabolic and bariatric surgery expert who has performed thousands of successful weight loss surgeries and has a passionate team of specialist staff at Central Coast Surgery to support you along your weight loss journey.
Although gastric sleeve surgery is very safe, as with all medical procedures, there are some possible side effects of stomach sleeve surgery. This article will discuss the risks and rewards of undergoing a sleeve gastrectomy procedure and everything you need to know about the side effects of stomach sleeve surgery in 2023.
How Gastric Sleeve Surgery Works
Gastric sleeve surgery or sleeve gastrectomy is a bariatric surgery that permanently reduces the size of your stomach by two thirds. The surgery is performed via a keyhole incision and is also known as a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. The surgeon inserts instruments through the small incision in your abdomen to remove a large portion of the stomach, leaving behind a small stomach pouch or ‘sleeve’. The advantage of keyhole surgery is that there is reduced scarring and post-surgical recovery needed.
After the partial removal of your stomach, the remainder is closed with staples. Undergoing this bariatric surgery is permanent and will limit the amount of food you can eat as your stomach is smaller, and you will feel full quicker. Not only will eating less help you lose weight, but by removing most of the stomach, there is a significant reduction in the Grehlin hormone, which is responsible for stimulating hunger. You will therefore feel more satiated between meals.
Risks and Rewards of the Procedure
Morbid obesity can negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health leading to overall lower quality of life. Although there are risks associated with gastric sleeve surgery, the risks of living with obesity are greater as patients with this condition are at high risk of developing life-threatening health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnoea, high cholesterol, and heart disease. People with a BMI over 35 are also at an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety and experiencing lower social acceptance and isolation.
Gastric Sleeve Side Effects: After Surgery
The first week after surgery is typically the most critical time to monitor for possible gastric sleeve complications, some of which could be minor and some more concerning. Potential side effects might include:
Bleeding is one of the most common side effects after bariatric surgery such as gastric sleeve surgery and usually comes from the staple line closure where the stomach has been divided. Symptoms could include dizziness, shortness of breath, a rapid pulse, or a pale appearance.
2. Stomach Leaks
Stomach leaks are rare after gastric sleeve surgery and occur when a hole develops along the staple line, allowing stomach juices to escape into the abdominal cavity. This can cause an infection and eventually lead to sepsis or septic shock. Symptoms include a rapid heart rate, dizziness, shortness of breath, fever, abdominal pain, left chest or shoulder pain, or abdominal distention. Diagnosis of a stomach leak can be challenging and requires further surgery to rectify.
3. Blood Clots
Obese patients are at a higher risk of developing blood clots than people in the normal weight range, but this is still a rare side effect after gastric sleeve surgery. The best treatment for a blood clot after sleeve gastrectomy is prevention by taking blood thinners before surgery and early mobilisation within two hours after surgery to prevent the clots from forming.
4. Abdominal Abscesses
Abscesses can occur when pus collects in an area of the abdomen and can be diagnosed with a CT Scan. An abscess forming as part of gastric sleeve complications is usually caused by some of the contents of the intestines leaking into the abdominal space and can be treated by draining away the pus.
5. Wound Infection
The advantage of laparoscopic surgery (i.e. surgery done through a keyhole incision) is that there is less risk of wound infection forming as a result of gastric sleeve surgery because the wound itself is so small. Some redness is expected; however, if the incision becomes excessively red and warm with a thickening of the skin and possibly some discharge, it is possibly infected. These gastric sleeve complications can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics.
Gastric Sleeve Side Effects: Long Term
Long-term side effects of gastric sleeve surgery may include:
Stenosis is a narrowing of the stomach caused by scars along the staple line contracting, making the stomach excessively narrow and creating problems digesting food. This bariatric side effect can lead to stomach obstructions but can be treated by ‘stretching’ the narrow area with a surgically inserted balloon to widen the channel.
2. Excess Skin
Sagging skin is not so much one of the side effects of stomach sleeve surgery as a result of obesity. The skin stretches with excess weight, and it is common to be left with excess skin after any weight loss surgery. This can be rectified with a panniculectomy, which is a surgery to remove the excess skin.
3. Vitamin Deficiencies
Eating fewer calories after bariatric surgery means fewer opportunities to take in nutrients. Therefore, you have to make sure you’re eating the right foods to alleviate any side effects after gastric sleeve surgery. In some cases, whole foods may not be enough to gain sufficient nutrition and you may need to supplement your diet with vitamins, minerals, or other medications to maintain optimal health.
4. Regaining Weight
Immediately after surgery, the remaining stomach pouch is only big enough to hold one cup of food; however, over time, it will stretch if the patient begins to eat larger meals. If this happens, weight loss may come to an end, or you may even start to gain weight. While surgery is a tool to help patients lose weight, it has to be accompanied by a permanent change of habits to maintain weight loss results and avoid some of the side effects of stomach sleeve surgery listed above.
How to Avoid Side Effects After Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Prevention is better than a cure, as they say, so the best way to avoid gastric sleeve side effects after surgery is good preparation before surgery. At Central Coast Surgery, our team will do everything possible to ensure you’re well prepared before your bariatric surgery. You will consult with your surgeon, a dietician, and a psychologist to ensure you’re in good mental and physical health and an appropriate candidate for weight loss surgery.
Depending on your medical history and personal circumstances, we will perform a routine blood test to establish your general health and may also utilise other tests like a chest X-ray or ECG if necessary. We also advise that you start losing weight, exercising, and changing your diet to prepare for surgery. If you smoke, we would advise you to quit before your procedure. These changes will help you to be successful in the future of your weight loss journey and will help alleviate any possible side effects after gastric sleeve surgery.
Choosing a Good Surgeon
Any type of weight loss surgery is a serious undertaking, and selecting the best possible surgeon is key to a successful bariatric surgery outcome and avoiding as many side effects of sleeve gastrectomy as possible.
Dr Ken Wong is an experienced bariatric surgeon and an expert in the field of weight loss surgery. Dr Wong performs hundreds of weight loss surgeries a year including gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and gastric banding surgery. All surgeries are minimally invasive and performed via keyhole to allow patients a faster recovery time. All surgery take place in private hospital facilities where you will be taken care of by our team of dedicated staff.
At Central Coast Surgery, we firmly believe that gastric sleeve procedure pre and post-operative care is imperative to long-term weight loss. We happily invest time and energy to educate and guide our patients through these phases. With a highly-skilled, multidisciplinary team to support you on your journey to a healthier life, we're not just here to provide surgical options, but we're here to help you successfully lose weight and keep it off.
So, if you’re considering gastric sleeve surgery or bariatric surgery in general, please get in touch with Dr Wong and the team at Central Coast Surgery today. As a specialist team, we provide gastric sleeve patients with extraordinary results and excellent care on their journey to health. Call us on 02 4323 7000 for more information or to book your initial consultation.