Gastric Bypass, also known as “Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, is one of the first and most common type of weight loss surgery designed for obese patients that failed to it with other non-surgical options. The procedure is performed in two steps as the surgeon starts by stapling the stomach in order to create a small pouch in the upper part of the organ. The following step consists of connecting the newly-created pouch to the middle of the small intestine. The surgery results in a bypass that transports food directly from the pouch to the middle of the small intestine, without passing through the other part of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine.

The procedure is meant to increase satiety, and the patient will feel full faster with smaller amounts of food. At the same time, the surgery also rearranges the digestive system, resulting in an intentional malabsorption and decrease in the amount of calories that can be absorbed by the digestive system. Research demonstrated that gastric bypass helps the majority of the patients lose between 60 and 80% of the excessive weight two to three years after the procedure. Despite being a safe and effective type of surgery, there are also risks and side effects associated with a gastric bypass.

Potential Gastric Bypass Side Effects

There are determined complications associated with gastric bypass surgery itself, including anastomotic leaks, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia allergy to the medication used in the anesthesia, blood clots, infection, and lung or breathing problems. Death is particularly rare but can also occur. In addition, open surgery includes more risks due to the larger incisions, such as incisional hernia, organ injury during the surgery and wound infection.

The most common laparoscopic gastric bypass side effects are bowel obstruction, gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage and stomal stenosis. However, the probability of developing one of this side effects is considerably low — about 10% — and it is correlated with the surgeon’s experience, which means that surgeries performed by more specialized and experienced physicians are less likely to result in one of these problems.

Possible Long-Term Gastric Bypass Side Effects

Long-term complications due to a gastric bypass procedure occur in 15.3% of the patients. It also depends on the type of surgery performed, but the potential long-term gastric bypass side effects include bowel obstruction, dumping syndrome that results in diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, the development of gallstones or hernias, low blood sugar also known as hypoglycemia, malnutrition more common when patients don’t take supplementary vitamins and minerals, iron or calcium deficiencies, stomach perforation, ulcers, vomiting, and staple-line failure in the pouch.

In addition, patients may fail to lose enough weight, which is closely related to the alterations made in diet and exercise habits. The first step to avoid potential side effects of a gastric bypass is taken even before the surgery. It is crucial to discuss with the physician the most appropriate type of surgery for the patient’s characteristics and need. Equally important is to follow the physician’s recommendations regarding medication, supplements, diet and physical activity. If one of the complications occur, additional surgeries may be needed to correct the problem.

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