Risks & Benefits
What are the benefits and risks of bariatric surgery?
At Meridian Surgical, we realize that weight-loss surgery is a huge step for a person to take, but we are all firm believers that it is an incredible tool for our patients. Bariatric has been clearly shown to result in more weight loss and higher rates of maintaining weight loss than diet, exercise or medications. If lifestyle changes alone have not been successful for you, then it might be time to think about surgery. Look at our before and after pictures to see what can happen!
In addition to providing significant weight loss, bariatric surgery will specifically improve numerous medical issues, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol. Most of our diabetic patients can immediately decrease the amount of medications or insulin they are taking, and many of them are completely cured of diabetes after having bariatric surgery. The gastric bypass also has excellent improvement in acid reflux or heartburn, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Women dealing with infertility from irregular periods will often have improvement in their menstrual cycle, and it is safe to become pregnant after bariatric surgery. We do recommend waiting 18-24 months to become pregnant.
Obesity can take years from a person’s life. With a BMI of 40-45, the average lifespan decreases by 8-10 years. Research has shown that patients who undergo bariatric surgery can add most of those years back to their life.
Bariatric surgery should be considered major surgery, and it comes with risks as well as the benefits. Any time an incision is made, there is a risk of bleeding, infection or scar formation. All bariatric surgery is done under general anesthesia, and there are risks associated with any surgery requiring general anesthesia, such as anesthetic reactions, heart or lung complications, pneumonia, heart attack, blood clots to the legs or lugs, and even death. The risk of bariatric surgery resulting in death within 30 days of surgery is similar to most other abdominal operations, and it is quite a bit lower than open-heart surgery or a hip replacement. The average risk of dying within 30 days of bariatric surgery in 1 in 1000 patients. Further reading is listed below with references.
Making an incision into the abdomen has a risk of injuring organs or blood vessels inside of the abdomen. Most of the time, this is recognized at the time of the procedure and can be repaired right away, but in some situations, this can require additional procedures to treat these injuries. All bariatric procedures involve operating around the stomach and esophagus, and some of them involve attaching the intestines to the stomach as well. Cutting into the stomach has a risk of leaking into the abdomen. Creating a new stomach-to-intestine or intestine-to-intestine connection also has a risk of leaking. Some of these leaks require additional procedures or operations to address. Significant weight loss can cause gallstones to form, which may require the gallbladder to be removed.
Many patients have an adjustment period of adapting to having a smaller stomach, and it can be difficult for patients to keep up their fluid intake to stay hydrated. Some nausea and occasionally vomiting are some of the more common side effects after bariatric surgery, and occasionally a patient will have to come into the clinic to get some IV fluids or rarely be admitted to the hospital. There are risks of vitamin deficiencies after bariatric surgery, and we have specific recommendations for what vitamins all our patients should take. We do recommend that patients take vitamins for the rest of their life after bariatric surgery.
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