Over the last 20 years, weight loss surgery, otherwise known as bariatric surgery or obesity surgery, has become more and more common as a way for patients to lose significant weight quickly and try to improve the quality of their lives. It has also become big business for surgeons and hospitals with progressive growth in the number of surgeons claiming to specialize in such procedures and in hospital-based weight loss surgery programs. Because these procedures are often not covered by insurance, they can be lucrative for both the surgeons performing them and hospitals where they are performed.
There are several types of weight loss surgery procedures, including Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, gastric banding, gastric sleeve and duodenal switch with pancreatic diversion. All are designed to produce rapid weight loss. In order to induce weight loss, bariatric surgeries make changes to a patient’s digestive system which limit how much the patient can eat and/or to reduce the number of nutrients they can absorb.
While weight loss surgery can have significant benefits for the patient, it also presents a variety of serious short and long-term risks to patients. It is therefore critical that these procedures only be performed on appropriate patients, by properly credentialed surgeons, and in hospitals with the expertise to promptly recognize and address the potential complications.
Weight loss surgery should only be performed on patients who have demonstrated that they cannot achieve weight loss by improving their diet and exercise habits and/or who have serious health problems as a result of their weight. To qualify for weight loss surgery, patients should generally have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or a BMI of 35-40 with a serious weight-related health problem.
Because weight loss surgery patients are often in relatively poor health, major surgery presents more risks to them than it would to the average person. In addition, because of their body habitus, weight loss surgery patients tend to decompensate more quickly than other patients, meaning that any complications can happen more quickly and with more severe results. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the surgical team and hospital to closely monitor weight loss surgery patients during and after surgery, including long after the patient has left the hospital.
Medical mistakes causing injuries or death in weight loss surgery patients tend to occur as a result of the following:
- Poor patient selection
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to recognize or treat intra- or post-operative complications (leak, infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, breathing problems, etc.)
- Failure to recognize malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies, resulting in neurological damage.
Youman & Caputo has successfully handled many cases involving injuries or death resulting from weight loss surgery. We know the medicine and how to assess and prosecute these cases. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of weight loss surgery in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, please call us for a free consultation.