Gastric sleeve surgery can have a lot of benefits, but it’s important to be aware of the risks too. Any kind of surgery can cause complications, some of which could be very serious. You’ll need to discuss these in detail with your doctor, but read on to get an idea of the possible side effects and risks.
Common Side Effects of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
You should expect to experience some side effects after having gastric sleeve surgery, but these are usually mild and shouldn’t be anything to worry about. You will probably experience some or all of the following:
- Feeling tired for the first couple of weeks as your body heals and adjusts to a restricted diet.
- Some pain or discomfort around the incision sites, which should improve by the time the dressings come off a week after the operation. Painkillers should help you to cope with this.
- Discomfort after eating, especially once you’re ready to try more solid foods. You will need to introduce these slowly and only when your body is ready.
- Dumping syndrome can occur after gastric sleeve surgery. It can make you feel very sick if you eat something sugary. Avoiding sweet foods can prevent this side effect.
- Acid reflux is more likely as your stomach will be smaller after the procedure. Being careful about the way you eat should help, but your doctor may recommend medication or other treatments if necessary.
- Gallstones can develop when you lose weight quickly. They can cause sharp abdominal pain and may need to be surgically removed if your symptoms are severe.
- You could develop a nutritional deficiency if you aren’t careful about your diet.
Possible Complications of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Some people may experience more serious complications during or after gastric sleeve surgery. You will be having a significant procedure so there is a small chance that something could go wrong. Possible complications of gastric sleeve surgery include:
- Leaks: sleeve gastrectomy involves removing part of the stomach. The remaining part will be stapled shut but there is a chance that there could be a leak. You’ll be given a swallow test about a day after the procedure to check that your stomach is able to hold liquids. If anything is leaking out then you might need another operation to seal your stomach properly.
- Sleeve stricture: as the stomach heals after the operation, it can sometimes become narrower than intended. You could also develop an ulcer that could reduce the space available in your stomach. If either of these complications happens then you might need an endoscopy or more surgery to correct the problem.
- Damage to your other internal organs: it is possible for other organs in your abdomen to be accidentally injured during the operation. It may be possible to fix the problem during the procedure, but the doctor might have to convert to an open procedure or even perform another operation in the future to fix it.
Risks of Surgery
As well as the risks linked to the gastric sleeve procedure, there are also some more general risks that are there for any kind of surgery.
- Infection: you’ll be given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection, but there’s still a chance that the surgical wounds could become infected. This could cause pain, inflammation, swelling and other symptoms. Post-surgical infections can usually be treated easily as long as they are spotted quickly so your doctor will instruct you to watch out for possible symptoms.
- Blood loss: a certain amount of bleeding is inevitable during the operation, but some patients may lose more blood than expected. The bleeding can usually be stopped and you can be given fluids or a transfusion if you lose a lot. Sometimes there can be internal bleeding after the surgery and you might need another operation to stop it.
- Blood clot: clots can cause serious problems after surgery if they block an important blood vessel. You’ll be asked to watch out for symptoms like pain and swelling so you can be given medication or other treatment if necessary.
- Reactions to the anaesthetic: the operation is carried out under a general anaesthetic so that you’ll sleep through it. A small number of patients can have an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic, which could be very serious.
Should You Be Worried About These Risks?
Reading a list of everything that could possibly go wrong during your gastric sleeve surgery is frightening, but it’s important to be realistic about these risks. Approximately 95% of patients will go through the procedure with no complications at all. Of the 5% who have problems, most will only have a minor infection that is quickly treated with antibiotics. However, there is a very small risk that something could go seriously wrong. The complications are fatal for 0.2% of patients.
You should expect to have some side effects after the operation, but it’s important to remember that the chances of serious complications are very low. Even if something does go wrong, it will usually be possible to treat it. However, the risks are different for each patient, so it is important to get personalised advice from a doctor before making any decisions. If you have any additional health problems or you’ve previously had a bad reaction to an anaesthetic, you may be at higher risk.
Your doctor will be able to explain the risks in detail so that you can make an informed decision about your care. You’ll also be able to learn more about the benefits. Losing weight can reduce the risk of potentially serious health problems such as heart disease. It can also help with some existing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The doctor will help you to balance these benefits against the risks so that you can make the right choice.
Now that you know more about the risks of gastric sleeve surgery, do you think the procedure will be worth it for you?