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Is Gastric Bypass Surgery Worth the Risk?

Weight-Loss Surgery Has Its Problems but Can Be Lifesaving for Obese People
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The complications included a leak in the juncture attaching the intestine to the stomach, which occurred in eight patients, and a disruption of the staple line compartmentalizing the stomach, occurring in five patients. Other complications of gastric bypass surgery included a blood clot in the lung, blood infection, bleeding, pneumonia, bowel obstruction, and injury to the esophagus. Merkle notes that these complications are more commonly seen among severely obese patients having any type of surgery.

These findings should not discourage people from considering gastric bypass surgery, but they should help them understand the serious nature of the surgery, according to James A. Madura II, MD.

"People who are considering this surgery need to know that the laparoscopic procedure is really the same one as the conventional surgery," he tells WebMD. "The new surgery is less invasive, and it's associated with fewer wound complications and a faster recovery, but the surgery on the internal organs is the same. It's a major surgical intervention."

Madura, who was not involved in the study, is the director of the bariatric surgery program at Rush University Medical Center, where he is an assistant professor of surgery. He urged that patients who are considering obesity surgery seek out an experienced surgeon. "Find someone who operates in a multidisciplinary center that is committed to the care of obese patients," he says.

"Gastric bypass surgery is not about losing weight the easy way and looking good -- the operation is about improving health," says Merkle. "There should be a long-term commitment by the patient. Eating habits must change. For example, patients will need lifelong vitamin supplements. Some patients lose weight, and then gain it back again. Not everyone gets the results they want, but they all face the risk of these complications."

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