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How Safe Is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Posted on 01 Mar, 2022
How Safe Is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

How safe is gastric bypass surgery? And is gastric bypass safe for diabetics? Both great questions – ones that we’re going to answer in great detail.

If you are struggling with weight issues and have exhausted many of the avenues of successful weight loss methods, your doctor may recommend a weight loss surgery called gastric bypass surgery. Gastric bypass surgery, is a highly effective way to lose weight and reduce the risk of severe weight-related issues. These issues include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. But as with any complex surgery, you may be wondering is gastric bypass safe? The immediate answer is yes, but there is always more to examine. This article will cover some of the key facts about gastric bypass surgery and ensure you are fully informed about its safety.

First: Gastric Bypass Overview

One of the most common types of weight loss surgery is a procedure called gastric bypass. This procedure involves creating a small pouch away from the stomach and connecting this newly created pouch directly to the small intestine. After this gastric bypass is introduced, swallowed food will go through this small pouch of the stomach and then directly into the small intestine. The bypass of your stomach will ensure your body does not absorb as many calories, thus making you feel full much faster after eating.

Any doctor will only recommend bariatric surgery when a patient meets certain criteria. These include if the patient has a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or if the patient has a BMI of 35 or above, coupled with a co-morbid health issue.

How Safe is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery, when performed by an experienced, reputable surgeon, is very safe.

As with any surgery, gastric bypass customarily carries some risks. Complications from this surgery include infection, blood clots, and internal bleeding. Another risk is anastomosis. This is a new connection created in your intestines and stomach during the bypass surgery that will not fully heal and will leak. Leaking of digestive fluid and partially digested food through an anastomosis is one of the most severe complications that can occur after gastric bypass surgery.

Symptoms of Anastomotic Leaking

As one of the most significant complications after gastric bypass surgery, it is essential to know some of the symptoms to look out for to avoid serious issues. The cause of the leak varies from person to person. One possible reason stems from a problem with the tool or materials used to close the anastomosis during the surgery. It could also be due to issues with the patient’s blood flow in the area after surgery. Another reason could be poor wound healing due to diabetes or smoking.

People are more at risk of an anastomotic leak if they are male, have other health problems, or have had abdominal surgery in the past. Anastomotic leaks are reported to happen in between 1.5-6% of gastric bypass surgeries. Leaks can occur up to several weeks after the procedure. Symptoms vary by individual but include:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath (rapid breathing or difficulty breathing)
  • Fluid leaking from an incision site
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the left shoulder area
  • Low blood pressure
  • Less urine

It is essential to understand that these symptoms only occur in rare cases and don’t affect the overall answer to “is gastric bypass safe?” – which is generally yes. These symptoms are usually detected during the immediate postoperative period, and the causes are repaired by the surgical team. Studies have shown that early intervention for any complications produces the most positive outcomes.

Long Term Complications of Gastric Bypass

There are a handful long term complications that can arise after a gastric bypass procedure. These mainly centre around deficiencies associated with the decreased usage of the patient’s stomach. B12 and Thiamine deficiencies are very prevalent and are very easily treated with a supplement and proper postoperative diet as recommended by the doctor or dietician.

Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome is a group of symptoms that occurs when food moves from the stomach into the small intestine too fast. The onset of Dumping syndrome after gastric bypass surgery occurs when food gets “dumped” directly from the newly created stomach pouch straight into your small intestine without being digested. There are two types of dumping syndrome: early and late. Early dumping happens 10 to 30 minutes after a meal. Late dumping happens 1 to 3 hours after eating. Each has slightly different symptoms.

Early dumping syndrome can occur due to the large mass of food that is dumped into your small intestine at an earlier stage of digestion. The intestines detect that this new food mass is too concentrated and release gut hormones to combat it. Your body reacts by shifting some of the fluid circulating in your bloodstream to the inside of your intestine. As a result, your intestines become fuller and bloated. This is when symptoms begin to occur; look out for the following:

Managing Dumping Syndrome

Dumping Syndrome is a common side effect and is very easily treated following a change in diet.

  • Avoid drinking liquids until at least 30 minutes after a meal.
  • Dividing your daily calories into six small meals.
  • Lay down for 30 minutes after a meal to help control the symptoms.
  • Eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains.
  • Don't eat foods high in simple carbohydrates, including those made with white flour or sugar.
  • Add more protein and fat to your meals.

Considering bariatric surgery is only available to those who commit to a change in diet post-surgery, those wondering “How safe is gastric bypass surgery?” should understand that some aspects of the safety fall to personal responsibility after the procedure.

 

Is Gastric Bypass Safe for Diabetics?

Yes – in fact, bariatric doctors have found that bariatric surgeries like gastric bypass surgery are very effective at treating Type-2 diabetes.

Weight loss leads to improvements in blood glucose control achieved through enhanced insulin sensitivity (the action of insulin in the body). There are also notable improvements in the levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.

Gastric bypass surgery for type 2 diabetes carries much of the same risks as it does to patients without the disease. However, diabetics, in many instances, are more prone to some of the dangers of gastric bypass surgery as a result of their condition. People with diabetes have a much higher blood sugar level which affects the body’s ability to heal wounds. This can impede the body's attempts to heal wounds post-surgery but is often minor and can be treated safely with the help of a doctor; having diabetes is not a huge factor determining how safe gastric bypass surgery is.

 

Wrapping Up

For selected patients with highly severe obesity, there are very apparent net benefits to receiving gastric bypass surgery. The advantages far overshadow the risks from improved health outcomes, lowered mortality, to increased quality of life.  Anyone still wondering “is gastric bypass safe?” will have peace of mind knowing it is an incredibly safe procedure, backed by decades of experience and research in the field. Any risks associated are similar to those from any other surgery and can be mitigated with the help of a medical professional.

Central Coast Surgery’s gastric bypass procedure and weight loss service uphold a comprehensive approach to weight loss. Led by Dr Ken Wong, the fully accredited and friendly team of surgeons, bariatric physicians, dieticians, and psychologists work together to help our patients achieve their weight loss goals safely and comfortably. Much like any other chronic condition, your doctor plays a vital role in managing obesity and providing post-operative support to ensure the positive outcomes of the surgery are met. Get in touch with our weight loss clinic today to hear about the procedure in full and the other weight loss services we offer.