Risks And Potential Claims Associated With Bariatric Surgery

Low-carb, no-carb, grapefruit, macrobiotic – when diet after diet has failed, many people who remain significantly overweight are turning to bariatric surgery. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), in 2008, approximately 220,000 people in the United States had bariatric surgery.

Bariatric surgery is a last resort for people hoping to minimize or eliminate the physical and emotional tolls of morbid obesity. It is important, however, to temper optimism with careful consideration of the many risks and complications associated with these surgeries.

What is Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery involves surgically reducing the size of the stomach, thereby limiting the amount of food it can hold. The goal is to prevent the patient from overeating by reducing his or her stomach size.

Different forms of bariatric surgery include:

  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: The stomach is surgically reduced from about the size of a football, with a capacity of 20 to 30 ounces, to roughly the size of a golf ball, with a capacity of about one ounce. In addition, the part of the small intestine where the most calories are absorbed (the duodenum) is bypassed.
  • Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: This surgery is similar to the conventional gastric bypass, but the surgeon makes multiple smaller incisions, as opposed to one large incision. The objective is to reduce the patient’s pain and recovery time.
  • Bilio-pancreatic diversion with duodenal switch: This surgery also resembles conventional gastric bypass, except that the surgeon creates a sleeve-shaped stomach and attaches the reduced stomach to the final section of the small intestine (thereby also bypassing the duodenum).
  • Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB), or lapband: The surgeon wraps a saline-filled silicone band around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch. The size of the restriction can be altered after surgery.
  • Vertical sleeve gastrectomy: In this alternative to lapband surgery, the stomach is stapled and divided vertically.

What Are the Risks?

People who have struggled with clinically severe obesity turn to bariatric surgery only after exhausting other options. They may feel that this is their last chance to remedy their weight problems and any existing or prospective obesity-related diseases. There are, however, serious and significant risks associated with bariatric surgery. Among these risks are:

  • Post-surgical bleeding, infection, blood clots, or hernias
  • Gallstones
  • Ulcers
  • Dehiscence, or a splitting or rupture along the suture line
  • Internal leakage, including anastomotic leakage and leakage from staple breakdown
  • Stomal obstruction, or stomal stenosis: This is a blocking or narrowing of the stoma leading into the small intestine.
  • Deep thrombo-phlebitis
  • Unsatisfactory weight loss
  • Nutritional complications: Patients may be prone to malnutrition post-surgery and will need to take vitamins for life. Bypass patients will be calcium-deficient and must take calcium supplements for life. Other common areas of nutritional deficiency include iron, vitamin B12 and protein deficiencies.

Moreover, some experts report that about 10 to 20 percent of patients who undergo gastric bypass require follow-up operations to correct complications. And many consider revisional bariatric surgery to be high-risk, with a complication rate approaching 50 percent and a mortality rate as high as five to 10 percent.

Some of the known risks associated with revisional bariatric surgery include acute kidney failure, pneumonia, incisional hernia and low levels of albumin.

Do You Have a Claim?

After surgery, patients may be wondering whether their pain or condition is normal. It is critical to follow up with health care professionals or psychologists as directed. Patients who are experiencing one or more of these conditions may be entitled to compensation for these problems.

There are different types of medical malpractice; among the claims a patient may possess are:

  • Surgical malpractice
  • Nurse malpractice
  • Anesthetist malpractice
  • Psychologist/psychiatrist malpractice

If defective staples or devices were used in surgery, a patient may also have a products liability claim. An attorney with knowledge and experience in this discrete practice area can assess your situation and advise you of your options.

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