Sleeve gastrectomy or gastric sleeve is one of the most recently-developed and effective surgical procedures to enhance weight loss and treat morbid obesity. Despite the fact that surgery is often the only treatment option for patients with morbid obesity and that the success of gastric sleeve has been proven, there are risks and complications that need to be taken into attention. Similarly, weight loss surgery is also an aggressive course of treatment that should be carefully considered by both patients and physicians only as last resort.

During a gastric sleeve surgical procedure, surgeons remove up to 90% of the stomach, reducing the size of the organ and reshaping it similarly to that of a banana that connects the esophagus to the small intestine. On one hand, it is less invasive since a gastric sleeve does not rearrange the digestive system. On the other hand, the surgery removes part of the stomach instead of just readjusting its size, which is a permanent decision.

Most Common Complications From Gastric Sleeve

Gastric sleeve is often performed in patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 50 and there are documented cases of patients from 12 to 70 years old having the surgery. Since the procedure does not interfere with the digestive system’s functioning, the risk for complications is reduced and the recovery is faster in comparison to other surgical procedures to address obesity. However, the risks and complications associated with it can be very serious.

The most common complication is staple line leaks, which affects about 2.1% of the patients and can be prevented with the use of absorbable polymer membrane (APM) to reinforce the staple line. In most severe cases, it can led to sepsis, organ failure and even death. 1.2% of gastric sleeve patients also experience bleeding, a copious discharge of blood from the blood vessels due to the surgery and 0.6% suffer from stenosis or strictures, which causes a narrowing or constriction of the stomach entrance diameter.

Other Complications and Risks

In addition, to the three most common complications associated with gastric sleeve, there are also problems related to any surgery, such as allergy to the anesthesia. Patients who undergo gastric sleeve also incur the less likely but possible risk of developing post-operative complications, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can happen even one to three years after the procedure, or sleep apnea.

The mortality rate associated with gastric sleeve surgery is only 0.19%. But complications and risks can be influenced by the patient’s BMI, and associated diseases. The higher the BMI, the more likely it is for the patient to suffer post-operative complications, while the existence of comorbidities like diabetes increase the risk of dumping syndrome, anastomosis and sepsis.

In order to reduce the risks of complications, it is important for patients to choose a certified surgeon and clarify all questions about the procedure prior to undergoing it. Seeking seminars and further information about the life-changing process may also help prepare for the surgery. Crucial to accomplish the goals of the treatment and avoid complications is to follow the physician’s and nutritionist’s advice and recommendations.

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