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Surgical Risks

General Complications of Any Surgery

Some of the general complications of all surgery (versus the specific complications of weight-loss surgery) are outlined below:

  • Wound Infection – Wound infections are less likely to occur with laparoscopic surgery than with the traditional open incision. However, patients with diabetes are at higher risk for developing wound infections after any type of surgery, and obese patients require larger doses of antibiotics to prevent post-operative infection.
  • Pneumonia – Obese patients require more aggressive post-operative respiratory care to prevent fluid build-up in the lungs that can lead to pneumonia. It is believed that because patients who have laparoscopic surgery feel better than patients who have open surgery, they can attend to their respiratory needs with more ease and decrease their risk of developing pneumonia.
  • Deep-Vein Thrombosis/Pulmonary Embolism – Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a clot forms, typically in the leg. If a piece of the clot comes loose and travels through the bloodstream to the artery that goes to the lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE is the leading cause of death in the U.S. after weight-loss surgery and is best prevented by staying active and doing lots of walking after surgery. Because patients who have laparoscopic surgery generally experience less discomfort than those who have open surgery, they are more comfortable in doing the necessary walking and are, therefore, thought to be at less risk for this complication to occur.
  • Bowel Obstruction – The most common reasons for bowel obstructions to occur after surgery are adhesions (internal scar tissue) or internal hernia (bowel twisting). There is less internal scar formation after laparoscopic surgery versus open surgery.
  • Incisional Hernia – Hernias that form along the incision, requiring additional surgery to repair, are less common with laparoscopic surgery.
  • Bleeding – In the hands of our surgeons, it is rare to require a blood transfusion during or after gastric bypass or banding surgery. We do not recommend that patients donate blood prior to surgery.
  • Death – The national mortality rate for gastric bypass surgery is 1:200, or 1 in 200 patients, the same as the mortality rate for any major surgery on an obese patient. This rate varies tremendously, depending on choice of hospital and surgeon and individual patients’ medical conditions.

There are specific risks associated with each bariatric procedure. Your bariatric surgeon will discuss these with you at your appointments.