The Truth About Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy Long Term Complications

Vertical sleeve gastrectomy is a type of bariatric surgery intended for people with very high BMI of above 39. The sleeve gastrectomy surgery is an irreversible procedure that provides a reduction of the stomach size by about 20% giving it a sleeve shape through stomach stapling. The stapling is mostly done at the greater curvature and hinders the production of ghrelin peptide – a hormone that regulates appetite and stimulates hunger, and therefore reduces the amount of ingested food coupled with the decrease in size. However, vertical sleeve gastrectomy complications, both short and especially long term, are quite numerous although the ones such as unexplained weight gain is rather unlikely with the development of lesser complications if post-op management instructions are strictly observed.

One of the sleeve gastrectomy complications includes the gastroesophageal reflux disease, in which acidic stomach contents get regurgitated into the esophagus causing heart burn, metaplasia, or may even progress to cancer after a prolonged duration if left unattended.

Gastric fistula formation is another long term complication which causes the creation of a tube like connection between the stomach and the muscles covering the abdominal cavity. It can also cause stenosis (or simply put, narrowing) of the stomach which connects it to the duodenum. This can be caused by adhesions and narrowings from scar tissue formation. It can be corrected through a dilatory surgery to relieve the impediment on gastric emptying.

Another sleeve gastrectomy complication is the development of hiatal hernias in which the stomach protrudes through an opening in the diaphragm, the hiatus into the chest cavity. This can happen if the stapling is too tight creating a lot of pressure, which further increases with straining during defecation.

Similarly to most bariatric surgeries, vertical sleeve can lead to severe nutrient malabsorptions causing deficiencies of vitamins and other essential micro-nutrients like vitamins B and C, D (especially in women), as well as folate and iron. The subsequent complication developed is anemia, hair loss, osteoporosis, poor memory and dizziness. It is therefore very important to strictly adhere to a very strict diet and post-op treatments like vitamin supplements in order to prevent the development of vitamin deficiencies as well as other long term complications.

Some of these complications can lead to a bacterial infection of the wound, which should be prevented at all costs. Finally, the formation of a deep vein thrombosis (blood clots, which are often located in legs) is also possible, and if a blood clot gets detached and travels to the lungs (condition called pulmonary embolism), the result could be fatal.

Because of its extensive list of potentially life-threatening long term complications, the vertical sleeve procedure should be your very last resort in a desperate attempt to lose weight, and should only be recommended by your doctor. Before considering this method, ask yourself whether you are truly ready to make a committed change in your lifestyle and eating habits. If you are, why not put your commitment to action long before the procedure and see if you begin losing those extra pounds naturally, which is the healthiest way to fight obesity? Remember that losing the excess weight fast will not make you stop craving the unhealthy foods that highly likely contributed to your current weight level. However, once you proceed with the vertical sleeve, cheating on your diet and indulging in your favorite foods may not only lead to a relapse in your weight gain, but potentially life-threatening long term complications.