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Bariatric Surgery Side Effects: What You Should Know

By Meagan Drillinger
Experts consider bariatric surgery to be effective, but it is important for patients to note that it does not come without risk.

For patients who live with serious weight-related health complications, bariatric surgery has proven to be an effective option for weight-loss. Bariatric surgery, which includes gastric bypass surgery and other weight-loss surgeries, is a procedure that involves changing the digestive system in order to help you lose weight.

Bariatric surgeries are weight-loss options for people who have tried diet and exercise but have not been able to sustain results. Experts consider these surgeries to be effective, but it is important for patients to note that they do not come without risk. All bariatric surgeries are major procedures, and no procedure is without risk or potential side effects. If you're considering bariatric surgery, here is what you need to know about common risks and side effects.

What are the most common risks and side effects of bariatric surgery?

There are a variety of post-op risks and side effects associated with bariatric surgery. Your surgeon will be able to discuss all risks and side effects with you. Some of the more common, immediate side effects include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Anesthesia-related risks
  • Chronic nausea and vomiting
  • Dilation of esophagus
  • Inability to eat certain foods
  • Infection
  • Obstruction of stomach
  • Weight gain or failure to lose weight

Long-term risks associated with bariatric surgery

There are also long-term side effects and risks of bariatric surgery. These can range from mild to more severe. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Dumping syndrome, a condition where food from the stomach is dumped into the large intestine without proper digestion
  • Low blood sugar
  • Malnutrition
  • Vomiting
  • Ulcers
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernias

Risks associated with bariatric surgery by type

There are different types of bariatric surgeries, and each one has its own potential set of unique risks and side effects. In helping to decide which procedure is right for you, it may be helpful to know the risks and side effects associated with each.

Risks associated with gastric bypass:

  • Breakage
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Gallstones
  • Hernia
  • Internal bleeding
  • Leakage
  • Malnutrition
  • Perforation of stomach or intestines
  • Pouch/anastomotic obstruction or bowel obstruction
  • Pulmonary and/or cardiac problems
  • Skin separation
  • Spleen or other organ injury

Risks associated with gastric sleeve:

  • Blood clots
  • Gallstones
  • Hernia
  • Internal bleeding
  • Leakage
  • Perforation of stomach or intestines
  • Skin separation
  • Stricture
  • Vitamin or iron deficiency

Risks associated with adjustable gastric band:

  • Band slippage
  • Blood clots
  • Food intolerance
  • Infection
  • Malnutrition
  • Perforation of the stomach
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Risks associated with Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch:

  • Blood clots
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Gallstones
  • Hernia
  • Infection
  • Low blood sugar
  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Leakage
  • Malnutrition
  • Stomach perforation
  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting

How to reduce the risks associated with bariatric surgery

While all surgical procedures carry with them a certain amount of risk, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of potential side effects with bariatric surgery. For example, you can decrease your body mass index (BMI), increase exercise, and quit smoking. Consult your doctor about your options to decide what is right for you.