According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of American adults are obese. Obesity commonly leads to a myriad of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Type 2 Diabetes. In an effort to treat or control obesity, various surgical procedures have been developed. Gastric bypass surgery is a type of bariatric surgery that is used in obese individuals to reduce food intake and lose significant amounts of weight. However, as desirable as it is for an individual with obesity to lose weight, gastric bypass surgery is not without potentially serious – or deadly – complications and consequences.

Surgical Risks and Complications

All surgeries carry potential risks. Risks and complications occur during the surgery itself as well as post-operatively. Many problems are often related to anesthesia. These include allergic reactions to the anesthesia as well as intubation and aspiration complications.

In addition to the many risks associated with surgery in general, there are specific risks involved with gastric bypass surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, risks that may occur during the surgery include excessive bleeding, infection, blood clots, breathing problems and leaks in the gastrointestinal system. Death is also a risk.

Long Term Risks and Complications

The long term difficulties and risks associated with gastric surgery may include bowel obstruction, “dumping syndrome,” hernia, malnutrition, infections, breathing problems, blood clots, ulcers, stomach perforation, gallstones, and more. Although relatively rare, death is another long term risk that occurs in a percentage of individuals.

Some of the other long term risks include anastomotic ulcer, small bowel obstruction and internal bleeding. Iron, B-12 and potassium deficiencies are common. Proper dietary supplementation and monitoring are essential. Foods should be eaten that are high in iron. Lactose intolerance is a common complication. Gastritis and gallstones are not uncommon. Poor eyesight and osteoporosis may result if complications continue or are not properly treated.

Dumping Syndrome

One of the more common problems occurring after gastric bypass surgery is dumping syndrome, also referred to as rapid gastric emptying. During surgery, parts of the stomach are removed or rerouted. This significantly alters normal digestion and may cause food to enter the small bowel too quickly. This can result in severe pain, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Sugar in particular triggers dumping syndrome. Dumping syndrome may require surgery and medication. The diet must be carefully altered and monitored to accommodate gastric bypass surgery.

Gastric Bypass Surgery is Often A Risky Procedure

As noted above, it is clear that gastric bypass surgery has a large number of potential risks. It is wise for the patient to learn everything possible about the procedure before opting for the surgery and to make an informed decision. A gastric bypass candidate must carefully review the potential risks and discuss them with his or her physician. As with all procedures, the patient has a duty to act as their own ombudsman, to speak up, to call their doctor when symptoms arise, and in general, to be aware and proactive.

The Law Offices of Michels and Lew, Los Angeles Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Firm

Michels and Lew is a premier medical malpractice and personal injury law firm based in Los Angeles, California. The firm has a successful record of helping clients for more than 35 years. Michels and Lew can be reached at (310) 444-1200.


  1. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011-2014