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What are the Most Common Gastric Bypass Complications?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fewer complications typically arise with gastric bypass surgery than other operations designed to promote rapid weight loss, but some do exist. The most common gastric bypass complication is referred to as “dumping,” which means food moves so fast through the body that essential nutrients are lost. Staples implanted into the stomach may come undone, or a pouch that is created might break, which commonly requires another surgery to correct. Other complications include vomiting, and blood clots might form because the patient is inactive.

Those serious gastric bypass complications rarely occur. Some patients develop gallstones or kidney stones after surgery, while others might develop an ulcer in the stomach. Sometimes a hernia appears where an incision was made to perform the surgery, or an infection might occur. Some patients might become depressed after weight-loss surgery.

There are typically fewer gastric bypass complications from surgery done by laparoscopic techniques. Surgeons make several small cuts and use a scope connected to a camera to perform the operation. This type of gastric bypass surgery removes 80 percent of the stomach and poses a greater risk of malnutrition for patients. It is only recommended for people who weigh under 350 pounds (158.7 kg).

Another method of the surgery involves an incision in the stomach to enable the surgeon to physically handle the stomach and intestines. The doctor creates a pouch in the upper part of the stomach, with part of the small intestine connected to it. Food bypasses the larger, bottom part of the stomach, so fewer calories are absorbed. If the opening between the pouch and the small intestine becomes narrow over time, it is considered a gastric bypass complication that requires additional surgery.

Weight-loss surgery is usually suitable for people who are morbidly obese and have tried other means to lose weight, especially if the obesity is causing serious health problems. It is usually done on those who are at least 100 pounds (45.3 kg) overweight. If the patient suffers from heart disease, diabetes, or sleep apnea, the excess weight can be life threatening.

Before surgery, the patient is assessed for general physical health to determine if the risk of gastric bypass complications outweighs the benefits of the procedure. Doctors also routinely evaluate the patient’s mental health and his or her motivation to stick to a diet and exercise program after surgery. The patient is told what to expect during the operation and afterward.

Most patients remain in the hospital three to five days unless gastric bypass complications arise. They are unable to eat for a few days, and generally remain in the hospital until they can keep food down without vomiting and move without severe pain. A liquid diet is commonly recommended for several weeks after the patient returns home, with pureed food after that.

Very little food can be eaten in one sitting after surgery because the pouch typically holds only an ounce (28 g) of food. Sugar and fatty foods sometimes cannot be tolerated after weight-loss surgery. Diarrhea is also a common side effect, along with nutritional deficiencies, because food moves so quickly through the pouch and intestine. Some patients suffer from osteoporosis because calcium deficiency develops.

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