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What Are the Risks of Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery is a type of bariatric or weight-loss surgery. It is an invasive procedure where a surgeon makes changes to the stomach and small intestine to alter the way the patient digests and absorbs food. Gastric bypass surgery reduces the amount of food that the stomach can hold to help a patient achieve the goal of weight loss. Patients must be informed of all potential risks associated with gastric bypass surgery before giving their informed consent. When a patient suffers harm due to a preventable mistake, a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help.

General Surgical Risks

A Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery is a commonly performed type of bariatric procedure. During this operation, a surgeon divides the top portion of the stomach from the rest to create a small stomach pouch. Then, the surgeon divides the small intestine and connects the bottom end to the newly created pouch.

Gastric bypass surgery carries risks that are associated with any surgical procedure. These include the risk of anesthesia complications, blood clots, internal bleeding and infection. If a patient is at a higher risk of surgical complications due to his or her health status or medical history, it is the surgeon’s responsibility to consider this when determining whether gastric bypass surgery is appropriate for the patient.

Anastomotic Leaking

A common complication associated with gastric bypass surgery is a leak in the patient’s stomach. An anastomotic leak is a post-surgery complication where the contents of the reconnected stomach and small intestine leak from the point where the surgical connection has been made. While this can be fixed by a surgeon, it could lead to symptoms such as stomach and abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and low blood pressure.


Even if a gastric bypass surgery goes well, with no complications, a patient could suffer from malnutrition afterward. Malnutrition is a risk associated with most weight loss surgeries, as these procedures limit the quantity and types of food a patient can eat. This restricts the amount of nutrients that the body is able to absorb. A patient will need to work with a nutritionist to ensure that he or she gets all the required nutrients after a gastric bypass surgery to avoid malnutrition.

Stomal Stenosis

If a patient experiences a narrowing and tightening of the new opening between the stomach and small intestine after gastric bypass surgery, this is known as stomal stenosis. Stomal stenosis can result in nausea or vomiting after eating or drinking. Stomal stenosis may be caused by the use of staples rather than stitches, scar tissue buildup, the connection not receiving enough blood flow, or sores caused by the patient taking aspirin or smoking after the surgery. The risk of stomal stenosis is the highest three to four weeks after gastric bypass surgery.

Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome after a gastric bypass refers to solid food from a meal being “dumped” directly from the stomach into the small intestine without being digested. Early dumping can occur within 15 to 20 minutes of eating, while late dumping can occur 1 to 3 hours later. Dumping syndrome can cause bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting, sweating, fatigue and confusion. Dumping may be remedied by changes to the patient’s diet.

Gastric Bypass Surgical Errors

The long-term complication rate for gastric bypass surgery is higher than a sleeve gastrectomy, where a surgeon removes about 75 to 80 percent of the stomach. The risks associated with gastric bypass can be made even higher due to preventable bariatric surgical errors. Surgical errors refer to preventable mistakes made by a surgeon or doctor, such as injuring nerves during an operation or leaving behind a foreign object in the body cavity. If you have been injured by a surgical error before, during or after a gastric bypass surgery, discuss your legal options with an attorney at Youman & Caputo. You may be able to recover financial compensation.