Side Effects of Obesity Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery

Understanding the possible side effects of obesity surgery may help you make a more informed decision whether this route to weight loss is the right one for you.

Addressing Obesity with Surgery

According to recent statistics, there are quite a few of us who are carrying around a few too many pounds, and some of us carrying more than that. With so many weight loss options open to us these days, how do you decide which method is right for you?

General guidelines contend that if you are 50 pounds or less over your optimum weight, eating a balanced, portion controlled diet combined with mild daily exercise should be enough to induce weight loss.

What if you're considerably more than 50 pounds overweight, and you haven't been able to trim down by conventional dieting methods, either due to a lack of will power, or an extenuating physical condition? Are you a candidate for obesity surgery?

No one makes this determination on their own. Anyone seriously considering radical surgery to alter their digestive system will spend a good deal of time consulting with their physician to learn about the procedures available, and if they are a viable option in a given case.

Let's take a quick look at the most common types of obesity surgery.

Gastric Bypass/Gastroplasty

A gastric bypass, or gastroplasty, involves reducing the size of the stomach with surgical staples, and rerouting the digestive system past the lower portion of the stomach directly to the midsection of the small intestines. This prevents a good deal of fat and nutrition from being absorbed, and results in dramatic weight loss.

Gastric Lap Band

Gastric lap band surgery is a less drastic surgical alternative to a full gastric bypass. This procedure involves attaching a hollow sylastic band around the upper third portion of the stomach. This effectively, but not completely, divides the stomach into two portions, holding food in the upper chamber longer so that you feel full quicker when you eat. Gradually, the food descends into the lower portion of the stomach, and digestion proceeds naturally.

Weight loss tends to plateau once the body adjusts to its new configuration, but the lap band can be adjusted too. By filling the hollow band with a small amount of saline solution, the upper portion of the stomach space can be reduced, leaving less room for food and making you feel full even sooner. Further adjustments can be made until you are able to reach and maintain a healthy body weight.

Possible Side Effects of Obesity Surgery

All surgery carries risks. Now that we've discussed the procedures, let's take a look at the possible side effects of obesity surgery.

Side effects of gastric bypass/gastroplasty may include:

  • Staple failure
  • Anastomotic (stomach acid) leaks
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Malnutrition
  • Iron deficiencies resulting in chronic anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Fainting spells

Side effects of gastric lap bands may include:

  • Heart burn
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Ulcers
  • Stomach deterioration

Of course, the most drastic possible side effect of obesity surgery is death. Death is always a risk anytime you undergo surgery, but complications after bariatric surgery can lead to sudden death unless you follow your physicians instructions to the letter. Even then, your system might not be able to adjust to the drastic change.

Reducing Surgical Side Effects

Although it may not be possible to avoid the more common side effects of obesity surgery, there are a few things you can do to lessen any discomfort you may experience.

  • Avoid over eating. This leads to "dumping syndrome" that includes symptoms like nausea, cramping and vomiting.
  • Eat mini meals throughout the day. Your physician will recommend a menu and schedule.
  • Avoid alcohol. It's high in sugar and will also trigger dumping syndrome.
  • Take calcium and iron supplements as recommended by your physician.
  • Try to drink water in between meals to keep your system hydrated, and avoid diuretics like coffee.
  • Report unpleasant symptoms to your doctor as soon as they appear.


The risks and side effects of obesity surgery will vary based on your individual case scenario. Surgical weight loss should never be seriously considered until you've exhausted all your other options. Let your personal physician be your educated guide to any decision you make.

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Side Effects of Obesity Surgery