Bariatric Surgery Risks
All surgeries come with risks. General surgical risks include pain, blood loss, blood clots, complications to anesthesia and pain medications, and surgical site infection. Bariatric surgery has some of it's own unique risks for you to consider if you decide weight loss surgery is right for you. Your age, weight, and medical history play a role in the type of risks that are more likely to occur. Consult with your bariatric surgeon to discover your particular bariatric surgery risks.
High occurrence risks
The following risks have a relatively high rate of occurrence in or after bariatric surgeries. However, risks associated with the types of food you consume after surgery can be avoided if you follow your doctor's strict nutritional guidelines. Other risks are also likely to occur based on the type of surgery performed. See the menu options under Types of Bariatric Surgery to the left for specific information on the risk for each surgery.
- Leakage of tube or stitches, depending on the type of surgery you have
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Regurgitation, acid reflux, or constipation
- Dumping syndrome (a condition caused by the stomach emptying its contents into the small intestine too quickly, often causing intestinal cramping, nausea, and vomiting)
- Nutritional deficiencies
Less likely risks
In adjustable gastric banding or gastric sleeve, some minor complications might occur with the gastric band or sleeve (tube). The following risks are associated with all bariatric surgeries, but are less likely to occur than the high occurrence risks.
- Abdominal hernias
- Chest pain
- Band or port displacement, slippage, or erosion (gastric banding surgery only)
- Band or tube complications that causes heartburn or vomiting (gastric banding or gastric sleeve)
- Gastrointestinal inflammation or swelling; spasm of esophagus
- Stretching or enlargement of stomach pouch causing bloating and hiccups
- Gallstones due to rapid weight loss
The likelihood of experiencing any of the following conditions are small, but, as with all major surgeries, the risk is present.
- Separation of sutured or stapled tissue
- Injury to surgically treated area
- Obstruction of stoma (stomach opening)
- Pulmonary (lung) problems due to anesthesia
- Stroke or heart attack due to anesthesia or surgical trauma
- Required repetition of same surgical procedure
Mortality rates and safety of bariatric surgery
According to a new study by Duke University Medical Center, bariatric surgery is safer than ever before, due in large part to advances in weight loss surgery. After reviewing records from nearly 60,000 patients, researchers found that only 78 deaths occurred among 57,918 patients, a mortality rate of less than one percent (0.135%), which compares favorably to other major surgeries. Major complications were also shown to be low.
It should be noted that mortality rates for obese individuals decrease for those who undergo bariatric surgery. According to Moon, in 2008, the overall mortality rate for obese individuals was 6.3%, while the mortality rate for individuals who began with the same weight and health profiles and underwent bariatric surgery was 5.0%.
Find out more about bariatric surgery
For more information on bariatric surgery, browse the menu options above. To find a bariatric surgeon near you, use our bariatric surgeon locator.
Find out if you are a candidate for bariatric surgery.
Duke University Medical Center. 2009. "Large-scale analysis finds bariatric surgery relatively safe." June 24. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/dumc-laf062209.php (accessed July 13, 2009).
Moon K. 2008. "Bariatric Surgery Reduces Mortality Rates." American Family Physician. March 15. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20080315/tips/3.html (accessed July 13, 2009).