Bariatric surgery is one of the most reliable ways you can lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Before you start the process of getting weight loss surgery, there are some risks you should be aware of if you’re considering one these weight loss surgical procedures. Any surgery comes with risks, even if they are just related to anesthesia and infection. Weight loss surgery is no exception. However, there are some special risks associated with bariatric surgery that you should be aware of prior to deciding if it’s right for you. This guide covers some of the different bariatric surgery long term risks.
1) Risks Associated with Any Surgery
Other than the risks associated with having a general anesthestic, there are other problems that can arise after a major surgical procedure. Blood clots in the legs are a serious concern for anyone who has had a major surgery, but blood clots are one of the worst bariatric surgery risks. Patients have restricted movement after weight loss surgery, so blood clots may build up in the legs and travel up to the lungs, blocking their ability to take in oxygen. There is also the chance of an infection developing inside the surgical cut, especially if the wound is not properly cared for. While these are short-term risks, blood clots have the potential to cause long-term health concerns, especially if the blood clot triggers a severe heart attack or stroke.
2) Malnutrition Due to Small Stomach Size
Malnutrition is one of the most common bariatric surgery risks because the post-surgery stomach is too small to hold a full meal. Patients who have undergone irreversible weight loss surgery procedures will need to be vigilant about malnutrition for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, you can combat malnutrition by taking vitamins and other supplements every day. Regular blood monitoring to check vitamin and mineral levels will also help prevent malnutrition. However, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy procedure has the least serious bariatric surgery risks and rarely results in malnutrition. In fact, patients who can’t undergo other procedures often receive the vertical sleeve gastrectomy.
3) Problems Absorbing Nutrients in the Digestive Tract
Some weight loss surgeries that alter the digestive tract may result in very severe protein and vitamin deficiencies that can be fatal if left untreated. The more complicated a procedure is, the worse the bariatric surgery risks become. The Roux-en-Y and the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch are two classic examples of procedures that can cause absorption issues in the digestive tract. The biliopancreatic diversion without the duodenal switch is another procedure known to cause nutritional deficiencies. Of the three surgeries, the biliopancreatic diversion without the duodenal switch is the riskiest. In fact, the biliopancreatic diversion without the duodenal switch is rarely performed due to the chances of developing a serious nutrient deficiency. Vitamin and protein deficiencies caused by an inability to properly absorb nutrients can lead to severe complications such as heart failure and dementia. Fortunately, taking vitamins and other supplements does cut back on your chances of experiencing these risks.
4) Osteoporosis and Weakened Skeletal Structure
Calcium deficiencies are usually associated with procedures that change the way the digestive tract absorbs nutrients. In some cases, a calcium deficiency may result in a stooped back and brittle bones. Medication is often required to prevent worsening symptoms. In rare situations, patients who receive weight loss surgery may develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a permanent, potentially life-threatening bone disease that results in significant bone degeneration, leading to bones that are easily broken and fractured. Patients who suffer from obesity are at an even greater risk due to the extra weight on the skeletal structure.
5) Excess Skin after Significant Weight Loss
Even though having an excessive amount of loose skin is not one of the life-threatening bariatric risks, it can be very uncomfortable, especially if you cannot have it removed. When someone loses a massive amount of weight in a short period of time, the skin may not be able to spring back to its original form. Excess skin is almost unavoidable for patients who have had weight loss surgery. Fortunately, in cases where excess skin is hampering your quality of life, you may be able to have it surgically removed.
6) Long-Term Intolerance to Food
In some cases, during the bariatric surgery recovery time, you develop long-term nausea that causes an intolerance to food. Some patients are unable to eat without vomiting or experiencing severe nausea. In some cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized to avoid malnutrition, one of the most common and severe risks. This is one of the most uncomfortable long-term bariatric surgery risks, and there is no way to tell prior to surgery if it will happen to you. Fortunately, there are medications that reduce nausea and make it possible to enjoy food again.
If you’re comfortable with the risks, you should read our guide to bariatric surgery insurance and financing.