Gastric Bypass Complications: What to Look Out For

What Complications Can Occur After Gastric Bypass Surgery infection

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Gastric Bypass Complications? Gastric bypass is when the stomach is altered to limit the amount of food one intake to aid in one’s weight loss process. However, it has a lot to it that many people may not know, even some people who have gone through the procedure.

What Complications Can Occur After Gastric Bypass Surgery article cover image of surgical tools

It takes lots of research to understand how the process works fully, and to get the best results, medical guidelines should be followed at all costs. There are steps to follow leading up to surgery, during the surgery, and post-surgery as well.

Gastric Bypass Complications: What to Look Out For

There are many questions one asks regarding gastric bypass surgery, and the answers differ based on the source. We have done our research from authentic sources and have some answers and solutions for the most commonly asked questions…

What Percentage of Gastric Bypass Patients Have Complications?

Hundreds of thousands of people perform gastric bypass surgery each year, and the response to it differs for just about everyone. The sad part about it is that many people did the surgery and later develop complications. If you ask us…this is a recipe for disaster.

Whether it is minor or serious, complications after surgery can greatly impact someone’s life going forward. Medical reports indicate that between 10 to 20 percent of people who have had the surgery done needed follow-up consultations with their health professionals to correct some complications.

Bear in mind, it is a technical surgery, and should there be a misstep at any stage of the operation, that could mean trouble for the patient…and factored in are the surgeries that are done across the border. Most of those services are a “one and done” event instead of a relationship built with a surgical team for pre and post-surgery care.

What Complications Can Occur After Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass is done by persons for many different reasons aside from losing weight – meaning, other health benefits. However, with the good sides of the operation, there can be some negative aspects such as developing complications after it is done. Multiple complications can be experienced after the surgery to include…

Gastric Bypass Complications:Infection

This is by far the most common complication for people who have had gastric bypass. Countless people have noted that after their surgery (both short-term and long-term), they notice they feel excruciating pains and do not necessarily know what the cause is.

After further assessment and checks, there is an infection that may have been caused by leakage, either through the staples or the sutures. This leakage problem, if left untreated, can result in further health risks for the person.

The condition is known as Anastomotic Leak and is a condition where digestive juice or digested food leaks through an anastomosis. Leaks occur in people differently and could be caused mainly by the tools or materials used in operation to close the anastomosis.

It could also be due to poor blood flow or poor wound healing – which mainly happens in persons with diabetes or a history of smoking. So how can one tell they could leak? These are the most common symptoms, even though they could be as a result of other health conditions, so it is best to consult your medical practitioner: 

  • Fever
  • Fast heart rate
  • Stomach pain
  • Pain in the left shoulder region
  • Less urine
  • Fluid leaking from an incision site
  • Shortness of breath (could either be rapid breathing or overall breathing problems)  


Developing gallstones is another major complication that may follow after a gastric bypass, even though it mainly occurs in about one-third of obese people who complete the procedure.

Gallstones are a small or relatively large build-up of cholesterol and other matters that form in the gallbladder. A person’s risk of developing gallstones comes when their bodies experience rapid weight loss. To help reduce the chances of gallstones, your doctor may recommend taking bile salts for an average of six months after the surgery or issue a medication called Ursodiol.

Nutritional Deficiency

This is another common complication one may experience after gastric bypass but can be avoided if the recommended doses of vitamins are regularly taken. The nutritional deficiencies mostly experienced are anemia, metabolic bone disease, and osteoporosis.

This complication could be a serious issue, especially for women who decide to have their children before the recommended 18-month waiting period. During this time, a woman’s weight is unstable, and a lack of proper nutrients and rapid weight loss can be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the developing fetus.

How Do You Know If You Have a Stricture After a Gastric Bypass?

There is still on-going research as to why gastric bypass patients develop a stricture after the procedure. So, what is it? An anastomotic stricture occurs when the connection between the stomach pouch and the small intestine begins to heal.

In the process, the passage gets smaller and makes eating more difficult. A few factors contribute to this happening, such as having a scar; using staples to close the area instead of stitches; poor blood circulation in the area; and sores or ulcers, which might be caused by smoking or consumption of aspirin and NSAIDs medications.

Reports indicate that only about 3 to five percent of bariatric patients experience this complication. There are certain signs and symptoms to look out for after your surgery to determine if you are experiencing stenosis. These include but are not limited to:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Problems eating certain types of food
  • Vomiting undigested food right after eating
  • Feeling full in the upper middle abdomen right after eating 

Once you experience any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you visit your doctor right away. He or she will do a thorough assessment to make a proper diagnosis. You will go through a testing process known as an upper GI series, which involves using x-rays and contrast dye that you intake.

This process will help determine if you have developed a stricture or the feeling caused by other complications. A stricture can be treated through a process known as endoscopic dilation, which involves using a special balloon to aid in stretching the opening back to its original size. The drawback is, a stricture may not always be treated this way, and you may have to do surgery to get it corrected. 

What Complications Can Occur After Gastric Bypass Surgery picture of an emergency room

There is, however, a good way to have the situation prevented by following your doctor’s strict order on what to eat and when to do so. It is highly recommended you speak with your doctor before taking aspirin or NSAID medication and ensure you avoid smoking at all costs. You can get help in quitting by checking with your doctor or counselor.

When Should You Go To The ER After a Gastric Bypass?

No one desires to head out to the ER after gastric bypass as they hope for a successful surgery, recovery, and life going forward. However, some patients may experience post-surgery complications, and heading to the doctor right away is the best option.

So, what are the signs you should look out for to know when to go? Aside from the other issues like leaking, gallstones, or stricture, as noted above, other issues may arise, which starts with simple abdominal bloating, cramps, and vomiting.

These signs can be an indication of loose stool or diarrhea. This indicates there might be a bowel blockage, and if you experience these feelings for several hours…the ER should be your next stop.

Continued abdominal pains (even if it occurs with breaks) is a serious issue, and if there is limited passing or gas, you could be in the high-risk group as this is potentially life-threatening.

These are only some of the complications one may experience from gastric bypass surgery, and speaking with your healthcare provider can provide more in-depth knowledge. 

As with anything, knowledge is power. Do you homework before ANY major surgery and consult with your surgical team.

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