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Bariatric Surgery: Possible Risks and Complications

Deciding on bariatric surgery can be difficult. This is major surgery. If you qualify for bariatric surgery, you need to think about the possible risks and complications of having this surgery. Make sure you know what to expect after surgery, too. You need to be willing to change your lifestyle for the rest of your life. And your body may change greatly in the years after surgery.

Obese man looking at picture of family.
“My family’s worried about my health—and so am I. I’m going to discuss bariatric surgery with them and with my doctor, and consider all my options.”
Possible Risks and Complications

As with any surgery, bariatric surgery has certain risks. These can include:

  • Infection

  • Leaks or blockage at a site where tissue is sewn or stapled together (anastomosis), requiring further procedures to repair

  • Breathing problems, such as pneumonia, which may require ventilation

  • Bleeding at an incision site

  • Blood clot in the legs or lungs

  • Injury to the spleen

  • Recurrent vomiting that requires a procedure to stop the problem

  • Incisional hernia

  • Problems from anesthesia

  • Death

Ongoing Concerns After Surgery

  • After surgery, your body may not absorb all the nutrients it needs, making malnutrition more likely. Vitamin and mineral supplements are needed to prevent this.

  • Dehydration is more likely after surgery. You must take care to drink enough liquids each day.

  • Temporary hair loss is a common side effect of this surgery.

  • Loose folds of skin are common when a large amount of weight is lost. Extra skin can be surgically removed when your weight has stabilized.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bessler, Marc, MD
Last Review Date: 3/27/2012
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