Gastric Sleeve Complications: Side Effects, Risks, Recovery Steps

Gastric Sleeve Complications Side Effects, Risks, Recovery Steps

When considering bariatric surgery for weight loss, it’s crucial to grasp the procedure, recuperation, and the potential risks associated with it. In this discussion, we dive into significant gastric sleeve complications that one mustn’t overlook.

Is Gastric Sleeve Safe?

If you are considering Gastric Sleeve Surgery you may be asking yourself, “What are the chances of dying from gastric sleeve surgery?”. In rare cases (0.08%), gastric sleeve surgery may result in life-threatening complications that require immediate medical attention so knowing the signs of these emergencies could save your life.

Most surgical complications will take place in the first week so doctors want patients to remain diligent in monitoring themselves during this time. The most serious complications after bariatric surgery are bleeding and stomach leak which normally present within the first 24 hours post-surgery. Complications of gastric sleeve surgery may include:

1. Bleeding

Patients need to spend at least one night in the hospital because bleeding is the most common complication that typically occurs within the first 24 hours after surgery. The bleeding usually comes from the long line of staples used to close up the edge where the stomach has been removed. If excessive bleeding occurs, it may require a blood transfusion or a longer hospital stay.

What are the Symptoms of Excessive Bleeding After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

The symptoms of blood loss after gastric sleeve surgery include shortness of breath, dizziness (especially when standing up), a rapid pulse of more than 100 beats a minute, very little urine output, and a pale complexion. Blood in the stool is also a sign of internal bleeding however this will not normally show up for 24 to 48 hours.

2. Stomach Leak

Stomach leak after having gastric surgery is rare however, it is dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. Somewhere along the edge of the stomach, where staples have been used to close it up, the surgeon creates a tear or gap.

This gap allows contents from the stomach to migrate into the abdominal cavity where it can cause a severe infection and lead to sepsis (septic shock). Sepsis is a reaction involving all body systems and their potential to shut down, multiple organ failure, low blood pressure, and potential death.

The surgeon must rely upon considering all symptoms present when the surgery was performed to diagnose a leak. If there is a suspicion of a leak, the patient must undergo open surgery to repair the gap and remove leaked fluid from the abdomen. Normally the patient has to stay in intensive care and may need temporary dialysis, a ventilator, or medication to regulate blood pressure.

What Does a Gastric Sleeve Leak Feel Like?

Stomach leaks, also referred to as gastric sleeve complications, cause various symptoms. These include dizziness, a rapid heart rate, fever, shortness of breath, worsening abdominal pain, bloating of the abdomen, shoulder pain, or pain in the left side of the chest. Additionally, one may experience a pale complexion, a general feeling of illness, and a sense that something is seriously wrong.

Diagnosing a stomach leak can be challenging due to the absence of a universally reliable test. Additionally, the symptoms can resemble those of other complications, and in some cases, symptoms may not be evident.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention for a thorough evaluation. Time is of the essence in detecting and treating a stomach leak.

3. Gastric Sleeve Complications: Understanding Deep Vein Thrombosis (Blood Clots)

Blood clots after surgery are rare and happen in fewer than 1% of patients. The risk with blood clots is they have the potential to break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs causing a decrease in blood flow. This potentially fatal complication is called a pulmonary embolism.

During surgery, doctors take many precautions to alleviate the risk of blood clotting. They sometimes administer short-acting blood thinner to patients before the surgery and use medical devices to stimulate the legs during the operation. The best defense against blood clots is to keep the blood circulating as quickly after surgery as possible. That is why the medical staff insists patients get up and walk around as much as possible after an operation.

Patients with higher weight have a higher risk of developing blood clots in their legs. Therefore, these individuals need to take the initiative by walking and moving around after surgery and throughout their recovery period at home.

What are the Symptoms of Blood Clots?

Blood clot symptoms can include swelling, skin discoloration, warmness in a specific skin area, itchiness, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include chest pain, dizziness, faintings, increased heart rate, rapid pulses, nausea, high fever, sweating, an unexplained cough, and localized pain, such as in the arm, leg, or calf.

4. Complications of Gastric Sleeve Surgery: Abdominal Abscess and its Impact

Developing an abdominal abscess after gastric sleeve surgery is a very rare complication. An infection in a specific area within the abdomen causes the accumulation of pus, resulting in an abscess. Typically, the abscess forms under the left diaphragm and a CT scan can confirm the diagnosis.

Luckily, an additional operation is usually unnecessary because a radiologist can effectively drain the abscess. Additionally, hospitals will typically keep patients hospitalized and administer antibiotic treatments until they completely eradicate the infection responsible for the abscess.

Symptoms of Abdominal Abscess

The symptoms of an abdominal abscess will usually take longer to develop than an abdominal leak and will happen over time. Symptoms can include a rapid heart rate and a bloated abdomen which can be accompanied by vomiting and fever.

5. Incision Infection

Infections at the incision sites may happen and normally occur between 7 to 10 days after surgery. Typically treatment is opening up the wound to clean it out, dressing changes, and a series of antibiotics. Normally this is done outpatient and continued at home unless the patient has other complications.

Symptoms Of Wound Infection

A small amount of redness at the incision site is normal unless accompanied by other symptoms. If the incision site is red, warm, hot, discharging, or oozing, it is most likely infected. The patient may also have a fever.

In rare cases, patients may experience longer-term issues after gastric sleeve surgery. These issues may present at any time after the procedure. These include:

6. Stenoses Complications

Stenosis is a condition that may occur in the tapered stomach tube, resulting in the blockage of a section by excessive scar tissue. This blockage, which can be as narrow as a few millimeters, prevents food from passing through. Treatment involves an endoscopy or the use of a balloon to reopen the narrowed area. If these methods do not succeed, more aggressive dilation techniques can be used.

Symptoms of Stenosis

If a patient can eat solid foods but starts vomiting solids after a few weeks, they may be experiencing symptoms of stenosis. However, if left untreated, this condition can eventually lead to an intolerance to soft foods and liquids too.

7. Gastric Sleeve Complications: Understanding Stomach Obstruction After Surgery

Stomach blockage is a rare complication found in only a few patients across the country. The surgery changes the size of the stomach by converting it into a tube and removing obstructing attachments. This alteration can result in the stomach twisting or kinking, leading to blockage. Initial attempts are made to untwist the stomach or remove the kink using conservative methods. However, if these approaches fail, surgery may become necessary.

Stomach Obstruction Symptoms

The symptoms of a stomach blockage are normally moderate-to-severe pain in the abdomen and/or vomiting.

Is There a Safer Alternative for Weight Loss than Surgery?

Some patients may not be good candidates for surgery. Additionally, they may want to consider less invasive options before agreeing to a surgical procedure. For these patients, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) may be exactly what they are looking for!

What is Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty?

ESG, a secure and effective non-surgical procedure, facilitates weight loss for individuals with higher weight. By using an endoscope through the esophagus, this procedure eliminates the need for incisions. The stomach is reshaped by employing sutures, resulting in a reduction of 25% in its size. One advantage of ESG over surgery is its reversibility and shorter recovery period. Nevertheless, it is crucial to promptly seek medical attention in the event of life-threatening symptoms to address potential complications with ESG.

ESG could be the ideal solution for you if you want to lose weight but don’t want to have surgery. Unlike gastric sleeve surgery or gastric bypass surgery, the procedure does not involve removing any part of the stomach, allowing for potential reversal if necessary. The patient can return home the same day without needing a hospital stay. Additionally, the recovery time for ESG is only about 7-10 days, significantly shorter than the 4-6 weeks required after surgery.

Avoiding Surgery Complications: Expert Strategies to Safeguard Your Health

Surgery complications following weight loss surgery can be unpredictable but acknowledging their potential seriousness is crucial. If you experience serious symptoms, it is paramount to immediately contact medical professionals.

Contact IBI Healthcare Institute today for more information on gastric sleeve surgery or non-surgical alternatives like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty. These procedures reduce stomach size and promote weight loss. With our expert support, you can improve your journey towards losing those extra pounds.

Picture of Dr. A. Christopher Ibikunle MD FACS
Dr. A. Christopher Ibikunle MD FACS
Dr A. Christopher Ibikunle (MD, FACS) is a distinguished surgeon with a rich academic and clinical background. After completing his residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, he served as an Active Staff and Assistant Professor of Surgery. Currently, he is a Professor of Surgery at Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and a Lead Preceptor for several institutions, including Morehouse University and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Chris is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, committed to advancing surgery and patient care.
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