Gastric sleeve surgery, or sleeve gastrectomy, is the most frequently performed bariatric surgery in the U.S. Many patients consider a gastric sleeve as one of the options in their quest for weight loss. If you are considering gastric sleeve surgery as a solution to obesity and its related health issues, You would want to make sure you understand how the surgery is done. You would also want to understand the potential side effects of gastric sleeve. In this article, we will discuss the complications of gastric sleeve surgery, providing a clear understanding of the potential short-term and long-term health risks. We’ll also explore the psychological aspects of undergoing such a significant procedure and discuss strategies to minimize potential risks. Our aim is to equip you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your health while also considering all the available alternatives to gastric sleeve surgery or any other weight loss surgery.
What is a Gastric Sleeve Surgery?
The sleeve gastrectomy, also known as the gastric sleeve or vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) is one of the least invasive bariatric procedures that has gained popularity as an effective treatment for weight loss and improvement in metabolic health. During the procedure, approximately 80% of the stomach is removed, leaving behind a smaller stomach that resembles the shape of a banana. This reduction in stomach size limits the amount of food and liquid that can be consumed, resulting in decreased calorie intake.
By removing a portion of the stomach that produces the “hunger hormone,” patients who undergo a gastric sleeve surgery experience decreased hunger and increased feelings of fullness. This helps individuals achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, sleeve gastrectomy has been found to improve obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol.
Understanding the Side Effects of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Sleeve gastrectomy is generally very safe and in good hands, the risks of gastric sleeve are pretty low. However, the decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery is not one to be taken lightly. It is crucial to be aware of the potential complications that may arise post-surgery. Some of the most common complications include bleeding, infections, and blood clots. These risks are typically associated with any major surgical procedure. However, specific to gastric sleeve surgery, there could be instances of strictures, leakage from the sleeve, nutritional deficiencies due to the reduced ability to absorb nutrients, gaining weight after the surgery, etc.
Potential Short-Term Complications of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Undergoing gastric sleeve surgery can lead to several short-term complications. These complications can range from minor to severe, depending on various factors such as the patient’s overall health, the skill and experience of the surgeon, and the quality of post-operative care.
Some of the most common short-term complications include bleeding, infections, blood clots, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. There is also a risk of leakage from the staple line used to create the new stomach pouch. This can lead to serious infections and other complications if not promptly addressed.
It’s important to note that while these risks are significant, they are relatively rare, and the vast majority of patients undergo gastric sleeve surgery without experiencing these complications. However, it’s crucial for patients to be fully aware of these potential risks before deciding to proceed with the surgery.
Potential Long-Term Side Effects of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
While gastric sleeve surgery can be a life-changing procedure for many, it is not without its potential long-term health risks. These risks can range from mild to severe, and it’s important to be aware of them before deciding to undergo this type of surgery. Some of the most common long-term side effects of gastric sleeve include nutritional deficiencies, gallstones, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Nutritional deficiencies: Since the surgery involves removing a large portion of the stomach, and results in significant and rapid weight loss, it can lead to decreased iron stores and deficiencies in vitamins, such as vitamin B12, and minerals, which can have serious health consequences if not properly managed.
- Gallstones: Rapid weight loss, which is common after gastric sleeve surgery, can lead to the development of gallstones. These can cause abdominal pain and may require additional surgery to remove the gallbladder.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Some patients may experience an increase in GERD symptoms after surgery. This can lead to discomfort and, in severe cases, damage to the esophagus. Studies have shown that one of the risks of gastric sleeve is the worsening of acid reflux. This may lead to inflammation of the esophagitis (esophagitis) or in some cases changes in the lining of the esophagus that has the potential to turn into cancer (Barrett’s esophagus).
Weight Gain after Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Another significant risk factor is the possibility of gaining weight after gastric sleeve surgery. Despite the surgery’s initial success, some weight gain can occur in the first 3 years post sleeve gastrectomy. This is not uncommon and it may be related to hormonal and metabolic factors. Some patients may not adhere to the recommended dietary and lifestyle changes, leading to weight regain. This is why it’s essential to consider gastric sleeve surgery as part of a broader weight management plan, which includes regular exercise and a balanced diet. Tip sheets provided by your healthcare provider can be extremely useful in managing your weight post-surgery. They typically include dietary recommendations, exercise guidelines, and tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It’s also worth noting that while gastric sleeve surgery can significantly reduce the risk of obesity-related health conditions, it doesn’t eliminate them entirely. Patients must commit to a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, to maintain their weight loss and reduce their risk of health complications. Regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider are also crucial to monitor your health and address any potential issues early.
Psychological Complications of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
It is essential to understand that gastric sleeve surgery can have profound psychological implications. The process of adjusting to a new lifestyle and dietary habits can be challenging for many patients. Moreover, the rapid weight loss that follows the surgery can lead to emotional fluctuations and unexpected psychological stress. It is not uncommon for patients to experience feelings of depression, anxiety, or even develop eating disorders post-surgery.
There are several psychological implications that patients might face post-surgery.
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Despite significant weight loss, some patients continue to perceive themselves as overweight. This distorted self-image can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration.
- Depression and Anxiety: The drastic change in lifestyle and diet, coupled with the stress of maintaining the weight loss, can lead to depression and anxiety.
- Eating Disorders: Some patients may develop eating disorders post-surgery. This can be due to the restriction on food intake or the fear of regaining the lost weight.
Therefore, it is crucial for healthcare providers to offer comprehensive care that includes psychological support. Patients should be encouraged to seek professional help if they experience any psychological distress post-surgery. Regular follow-ups and counseling sessions can help in the early detection and management of these issues. Remember, gastric sleeve surgery is not just a physical transformation; it’s a psychological journey as well.
How to Mitigate the Risks of Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Ensuring a successful outcome from gastric sleeve surgery involves a combination of careful preparation, adherence to post-operative guidelines, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition and regular exercise are crucial in achieving and maintaining weight loss goals. It’s also important to follow your surgeon’s instructions to the letter, as this can significantly reduce the risk of complications.
Here are some steps you can take to mitigate the risks associated with gastric sleeve surgery:
- Choose a qualified surgeon: The skill and experience of your surgeon can significantly impact your surgery’s success. Ensure your surgeon is board-certified and has extensive experience in performing gastric sleeve surgeries.
- Follow a pre-operative diet: This diet, usually high in protein and low in carbohydrates, helps shrink the liver and reduce surgical risk.
- Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of complications during and after surgery. It’s recommended to quit at least six weeks before surgery.
- Stay active: Regular physical activity can help improve your overall health and enhance your recovery after surgery.
- Follow post-operative dietary guidelines: After surgery, you’ll need to follow a specific diet to allow your stomach to heal and adjust to its new size.
Remember, gastric sleeve surgery is a tool to aid in weight loss, but it’s not a cure. Long-term success depends on your commitment to making permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle.
While sleeve gastrectomy is highly effective for weight loss, before you embark on a surgical journey, we always recommend considering all the non-surgical alternatives to weight loss surgeries. Some of the gastric sleeve surgery alternatives will expose you to fewer risks and complications.
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG)
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty is an outpatient, endoscopic weight loss procedure that involves placing sutures in the stomach to make it smaller without cutting it. The ESG procedure does not involve any incisions or scars and patients can go back to work after 2-3 days only. The endoscopic gastric sleeve helps patients feel full with small portions of food. It slows down the progression of food through the stomach, so the fullness sensation lasts for longer periods of time. The ESG procedure takes around 45 minutes. Patients experience significant and lasting weight loss. Patients usually lose an average of 18-20% of their total body weight. This is less than the weight loss seen with sleeve gastrectomy.
A silicone balloon is introduced into the stomach endoscopically and filled with saline. The balloon results in a sensation of fullness. The gastric balloon helps with portion control and weight loss. The balloon is left in the stomach for 6 to 8 months.
Weight Loss Medications
Patients looking for help losing weight but who do not wish to undergo surgery or endoscopic procedures may want to consider medical weight loss programs. Significant weight loss can be achieved by combining the use of weight loss medications (such as GLP-1 agonists) with a diet plan, increased physical activity, and ongoing support.
Are you ready to experience a healthier and happier you without adopting drastic measures? Schedule a consultation today and let our team of highly-skilled and experienced professionals guide you on your weight loss journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the recovery time after a gastric sleeve surgery?
Recovery time can vary depending on the individual and the specifics of the surgery. Generally, patients are admitted to the hospital for 1-2 days and they are able to return to normal activities within 2-3 weeks post-surgery. However, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s specific instructions for recovery to avoid complications.
Can gastric sleeve surgery be reversed?
Unlike some other forms of bariatric surgery, a gastric sleeve procedure is irreversible. This is because a large portion of the stomach is removed during the surgery. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks and complications before deciding to undergo this procedure.
What are the dietary restrictions after gastric sleeve surgery?
After gastric sleeve surgery, patients will need to follow a strict diet to allow the stomach to heal and adjust to its new size. Initially, only liquids and pureed foods are allowed. Gradually, soft foods and then harder foods can be added. It’s also important to eat small meals and avoid high-sugar and high-fat foods.
What are the signs of complications of gastric sleeve surgery?
Signs of complications can include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, difficulty swallowing, or not being able to eat. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.
What are the gastric sleeve leak symptoms?
If a leak occurs after sleeve gastrectomy, you may experience severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, and rapid heart rate. It is very important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience such symptoms. Your doctor may order Xrays, a CT scan, and blood tests. A gastric sleeve leak may require drainage, endoscopic intervention, and surgery.
How does gastric sleeve surgery affect mental health?
While gastric sleeve surgery can lead to significant weight loss and improve physical health, it can also have psychological effects. Some patients may struggle with body image issues or feelings of depression post-surgery. It’s important to seek support and counseling to address these issues if they arise.