What Are the Most Common Bariatric Surgery Risks?

Valerie Goldberg

Bariatric surgery refers to a series of weight loss surgeries used to help obese individuals lose weight. These can include procedures such as gastric bypass surgery and gastric banding. Weight-loss surgery can be life-changing and even life-saving for severely overweight people, but there also can be risks. Common bariatric surgery risks include gallstones after operation, nausea, vomiting and vitamin deficiencies.

An illustration of a human stomach. Bariatric surgery often makes the stomach smaller, so people feel fuller sooner.
An illustration of a human stomach. Bariatric surgery often makes the stomach smaller, so people feel fuller sooner.

Gallstones are one of the most common bariatric surgery risks. After a person undergoes weight-loss surgery, he or she will shed weight rapidly for the first few months. Rapid weight loss can cause gallstones, no matter whether it is natural or a result of surgery. Gallstones typically cause stomach pain after eating. Many bariatric surgery patients are placed on medications to control gallstones, and some people even wind up having their gallbladders removed.

Common risks of bariatric surgery include nausea and vomiting.
Common risks of bariatric surgery include nausea and vomiting.

People should consider vomiting or nausea as two other common bariatric surgery risks. Patients might experience these symptoms during the first few weeks after surgery. Bariatric patients need to train themselves to eat differently than they did before surgery, and if they do not follow their doctors' orders, nausea and vomiting can occur. Some steps that a doctor might recommend for avoiding nausea and vomiting are not drinking any liquid with meals and chewing food excessively before swallowing.

Bariatric surgeries can include gastric bypass surgery and gastric banding.
Bariatric surgeries can include gastric bypass surgery and gastric banding.

Iron and vitamin D deficiencies are also bariatric surgery risks. Women need to be especially careful of having an iron deficiency after surgery because their menstrual flow might become heavier. Iron supplements can be taken to avoid anemia.

Calcium absorption after bariatric surgery is more difficult for the body. Taking 1,000-2,000 milligrams of vitamin D each day can help patients' bodies absorb calcium more sufficiently. When calcium is not absorbed properly over a long period of time, it can lead to osteoporosis, which can cause brittle bones and puts people at a higher risk for breaking and fracturing bones after a fall.

There are several other, less-common side effects of bariatric surgery that can vary from patient to patient. It is important for a person who is considering bariatric surgery to discuss all risks with his or her doctor. Blood clots are a less-common side effect, but an individual can have a previous medical condition that would put him or her at a higher risk for this complication. There are rare cases of people who die during bariatric surgery, but most deaths occur because of lung or heart problems that were present before the surgery.

Gallstones forming after the operation is a common risk of bariatric surgery.
Gallstones forming after the operation is a common risk of bariatric surgery.

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