Bariatric surgery is unlike other surgeries, as its effects are not instant but gradual and are seen over the months. Like any other surgery, it is not without complication. But again unlike all other surgeries, the complication rate can be negligible if a strict protocol is followed. Moreover, the factors like technology advancements, development in the field of advanced laparoscopy, enhanced skillset of the bariatric surgeon, dedicated management of bariatric and metabolic surgeries by bariatric surgeons, play a vital role in the reduction of complication rate which eventually results in safe surgery.
As the procedure is done laparoscopically, the pain is just for a day and is minimally managed by analgesics.
The fear of increasing incidence of incisional hernias while operating an obese patient is so negligible or nil, as the procedure is performed through tiny key holes and all precautions are taken to suture the sheath through which the ports are put to perform the surgery.
Reduced hospital stay and early resuming to work is one of the biggest benefits of this laparoscopic bariatric procedure.
Sometimes, problems that may be faced are:-
Post-operative bleeding: Normally, this a nearly bloodless surgery involving 5 to 10ml loss of blood. However bleeding from the staple edges is known, but this can be managed well by the surgeon, by choosing the right size of the cartridge as well the right technique of application of the cartridge.
Dehydration: We are normally accustomed to drinking water at long intervals (a few hours) as we can consume nearly 200 to 400ml at one go. Following bariatric surgery, gulping or drinking water in one go is not possible in the first 2 to 4 weeks, due to reduced capacity of the gastric pouch. Hence, care needs to be taken to drink small quantities of water at frequent intervals to avoid dehydration. This is possible only if the patient is counselled about this prior to surgery and is fully aware of this. Also, the patient needs to be given good and clear post operative instructions regarding the quantity and frequency of liquid consumption, not forgetting the type of liquids. Coffee taken frequently could be another cause for dehydration. Family members and colleagues and friends at work play a major role in reminding tthe patient about consuming water frequently. Special care needs to be taken in people who are not accustomed to consuming adequate quantities of water prior to surgery as a general habit.
Vomiting/Fullness/ Discomfort/Indigestion: Following bariatric surgery, soft food is introduced in the diet in the third week, after the first 2 weeks of taking liquids. Due to the reduced capacity of the gastric pouch, the morsel size is significantly reduced and one has to chew the morsel well and eat slowly, giving a gap of 40 to 50 seconds between the morsels. This prevents distension or overdistension of the gastric pouch and thus avoids vomiting. This again requires good counselling prior to the surgery and on the follow up visit too before stating soft food. There is a subjective difference when we say small morsels and we cannot reach a standardization as the morsels size of each individual varies prior to the surgery itself. The best way to avoid this confusion is to make the person have the first soft food meal before you where in you can physically show the way food is expected to be eaten. However, by mistake, there is a chance that one can have a regular sized morsel as over years one is used to eating in that manner. If this happens, the person will vomit , and this will be a reminder to gauge the morsel size the next time the person eats. Following the vomiting, there could be a burning sensation in the stomach which will subside afer taking an antacid. If one follows the instructions of small morsel size, chewing properly and eating slowly, there is no chance that there will be vomiting. Another reason for vomiting could be keeping the stomach empty for a longer duration or having sicy food on an empty stomach. Avoid nuts, seeds, fried foods and processed foods. Very rarely vomiting could be due to reduced size of the joint between the gastric pouch and the small intestine. This could require an Endoscopy and necessary treatment.
Vitamin and mineral deficiency: It is seen that many of the obese patients are seen to have vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron and protein deficiencies in their blood tests that are done prior to surgery. With the significant reduction in the amount of food consumed after bariatric surgery, the existing deficiencies are bound to increase. Hence, it is necessary to do these tests, before surgery and rectify the deficit prior to the surgery.
Gall bladder stones: Significant weight loss which is consistant over a short duration could lead to the formation of gall bladder stones, be it with or with out surgery in a small percentage of patients. To avoid this there are two schools of thought, one is have a prophylactic removal of the gall bladder along with the bariatric surgery and another is to put the patient on ursodeoxycholic acid (a tablet) for the first few months after surgery during which there is significant weight loss.
Skin sagging: In the morbidly obese, when the skin is overstretched beyond a certain point, it tends to sag once significant weight is lost. This sagging is influenced by a number of factors like age of the patient, the BMI, pre existing sagging, pre-existing muscle tone and protein supplements taken during weight loss and exercises done during the weight loss period. Skin sagging is less if the age is less than 45, BMI less than 45, good protein intake during weight loss and good toning exercises done during the weight loss period.
Hairfall: Significant weight loss either by diet and exercise, aerobics, bariatric surgery, will entail hair loss. But this can be minimised to a greater extent by ensuring good protein intake during the weight loss period and adequate supplements in terms of vitamins and minerals.
Dumping syndrome: With a reduced size of the stomach, the food moves from the stomach into the smaller intestine much faster. This causes the pancreas to release excessive amount of insulin, leading to very low blood sugar levels , producing various symptoms like abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, sweating, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and anxiety. This is managed by eating less amount of sugars and fats and spacing out the meals through the day, having four to five small meals compared to 2 to 3 large meals. Having a high protein diet and avoiding liquids during meals is also an option.