Jefferson University Hospitals

Risks of Bariatric Surgery

All surgical procedures have risks and these are magnified with obesity. While it is impossible to list every possible complication of an abdominal surgery, we outline the more frequent and serious complications of laparoscopic weight loss surgery.

Bleeding, Infection or Getting a Hernia in Your Wound

With any kind of surgery, there is a risk of bleeding, infection or getting a hernia in your wound. With laparoscopic weight loss surgery, these risks are generally low (one or two out of 100).

Blood Clots in Your Legs

There is also a similar risk (less than one out of 100) of getting a blood clot in your legs, which can travel through the bloodstream up to your lungs; that is called a pulmonary embolism. Depending on the size of the clot, this can give people difficulty breathing. For some, this can be a life-threatening problem.

Leak from Staple Lines

With gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy, the stomach is stapled. Thus, the major risk is that one of the staple lines will develop a leak. In less than one in 100 patients, a leak can develop within the first week and, in rare cases, up to three weeks after surgery. A second surgery will almost always be required to repair a leakage. However, even if the leak is fixed, the fluids that have leaked out can still result in an abdominal infection called peritonitis. For some people, this can become a serious infection and, for a few, even life-threatening.

Stomach or Intestine Injury, Leak or Scarring

There is also a risk the stomach or intestine could be injured, leak or be so scarred from previous surgery that we cannot complete the procedure laparoscopically, and have to switch to the open approach (one in 300).

Vitamin, Mineral & Nutritional Deficiencies

Finally, there is the long-term risk of vitamin, mineral and other nutritional deficiencies. Weight loss surgery patients must be committed to taking vitamins and nutritional supplements often for the rest of their lives.