Gastric Bypass Surgery Risky in Very Obese

Procedure a double-edged sword for these patients, study finds

MONDAY, Dec. 1, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Gastric bypass surgery can be a double-edged sword for morbidly obese patients.

The very same health risks that make them eligible for the surgery can also put them in danger of complications during and after surgery, says a study presented Dec. 1 at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago.

The study included 335 patients who had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery at the University Hospitals of Cleveland from 1998 to 2002. This form of surgery is the most popular to help severely obese people lose weight.

In the procedure, surgeons staple the upper stomach to create a small pouch that is then attached to the small intestine. This reduces stomach capacity.

In this study, radiologic imaging was used to identify 57 complications from the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgeries. These included suture tears and leaks, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and infection.

"This should not be considered a cosmetic procedure," study author Dr. Elmar Merkle says in a prepared statement.

"People need to be aware of the potential complications of this surgery. It basically should be the last option we can offer the morbidly obese, after other less invasive interventions such as diet and exercise have been tried," Merkle says.

Gastric bypass surgery is not about losing weight the easy way and looking good, it's about improving health, he notes.

"There should be a long-term commitment by the patient. Eating habits much change. For example, patients will need lifelong vitamin supplements. Some patients lose weight, then gain it back again. Not everyone gets the results they want, but they all face the risk of these complications," Merkle says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about gastrointestinal surgery for severe obesity.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Dec. 1, 2003
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