Risks & Complications Associated with Gastric Bypass Surgery
Among the most popular surgical procedures performed today for the treatment of morbid obesity is known as “Gastric Bypass” or “Bariatric Surgery”. The goal of the procedure is to reduce the overall size of the patient’s stomach in order to limit food intake and thereby facilitate weight loss. One of the more common gastric bypass techniques is called “Roux-en-Y”, in which the surgeon staples-off the majority of the patient’s stomach, leaving a small pouch in its place. The resulting pouch, approximately the size of a chicken egg, is then sewn directly to the lower portion of the patient’s small intestine, called the “jejunum”, bypassing the remainder of the patient’s now defunctionlized stomach and attaching to the lower section of the pouch to the portion of the small intestine known as the “duodenum”.
Roux-en-Y may be performed by way of a large incision in the patient’s abdomen, or laparoscopacly, by way of a series of small holes through which instruments and a camera are inserted by the surgeon.
Because of the complexity of the procedure, gastric bypass surgery carries with it a significant risk of post operative complication, including separation or “dehiscence” of the surgically reattached intestine, post operative infection, problems related to digestion, inadequate nutritional intake, and death.
According to findings published in the October 2004 Journal of the American College of Surgeons:
- One in 50 surgery patients died within 30 days. (Other studies have reported one in 200 or one in 500 die.)
- About 3% of gastric-bypass patients younger than 40 had died in the 13.6 years after the surgery, compared with 13.8% of those who did not have the surgery.
- Overall, 11.8% of gastric-bypass patients of all ages had died after 15 years, compared with 16.3% who hadn’t been operated on.
In November of 2003, a 37 year-old woman died just two days after undergoing gastric bypass surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The surgery, which began as a laparoscopic procedure, was converted to an “open” procedure after the surgeon encountered problems with the staple line formed by the stomach stapler, a product manufactured by U.S. Surgical. Autopsy photos revealed that a section of staples fired by the stapler had failed to fully close as expected, allowing the patient’s gastric contents to spill out. Eric J. Parker, a Boston trial lawyer with the firm of Parker Scheer LLP, was retained by the family of the deceased patient to undertake the case.
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