To answer the question, “How safe is bariatric surgery?” early complication rates for bariatric surgery are quite low and the surgery is relatively safe according to the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) study.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study reviewed the open and laparoscopic gastric bypass surgeries and gastric band surgery. LABS found that the risk for death following bariatric surgery was 0.3 percent, with 4.1 percent of all 4,776 patents studied having some kind of complication. It was also discovered that those most at risk for complications had histories of blood clots and sleep apnea. Complications also presented to those who had trouble walking 100 feet or those who were very obese.
It is not unusual for those who suffer from obesity to have sleep apnea, the snoring and collapse of the upper airway during sleep. Apnea promotes the snorting and gasping for breath that sleepers experience. It is associated with high blood pressure, vascular changes, and greater risk for heart disease. Such factors contribute to surgical risk.
Venous blood clots are also a risk after bariatric surgery. The platelets that cause blood to coagulate after being cut are responsible for clotting. During clotting, blood also coagulates but does so inside the body. Should a clot break free, it can get stuck in smaller blood vessels in the body and prevent oxygen from reaching other body parts. Surgery normally increases the risk for blood clot formation although bariatric surgery can improve several of the risk factors associated with blood clots.
Obesity makes many types of surgery more difficult or put the patient at increased risk. An example is that weight gain prior to surgery can enlarge the liver, thereby making surgical access to the stomach more difficult. Livers that are fatty are heavy, more brittle, and more susceptible to injury during surgery. Establishing (or at least giving an earnest attempt to establish) diet restriction and self-care prior to bariatric surgery is an indicator as to how well the client will respond to any post-surgery regiment. Should a patient prove to be non-compliant prior to the weight loss surgery, many health insurers and bariatric surgeons believe bariatric surgery should be questioned.
How Safe Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is popular for good reasons. At present, bariatric surgery is the second most common abdominal surgical procedure performed in the United States. Still, it is necessary to gather as much information about the bariatric surgeon’s background as possible. Ask how many of the specific weight loss procedures you are considering, whether open or laparoscopic gastric bypass or gastric band surgery, the bariatric surgeon has performed. And be sure to understand what will be done if there are complications during or after surgery.
In addition, a common problem in bariatric surgery is insufficient post-operative care. Surgical intervention does not alleviate the need for diet and exercise to maintain permanent weight loss. Although weight-loss surgery is considered relatively safe, it is wise to evaluate the surgical facility where you will be having the bariatric surgery. The decision to have bariatric surgery can be difficult, but research and careful choices will guide you to the best decision.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo: Dr. Vishal Mehta