Gastric Bypass Surgery Deaths: No Surgery is Completely Safe

(The following article was provided by Dr Hani)

Gastric bypass surgery continues to grow in popularity as a safe procedure to help obese people lose weight. A large number of patients had this procedure in the last few years and the numbers are expected to grow even further. The long-term death rate related to obesity has shown to decrease by 40% in patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery (1) and thus for the majority of patients, this procedure can be a lifesaver.

However, as with any other surgical intervention, death can also occur due to gastric bypass surgery. Post-operative complications and deaths related to surgery can occur in 2% patients who had gastric bypass surgery (2). If a patient died within one month after surgery, then such death is attributed to the operation itself no matter what caused the death of the patient. This is a kind of statistical dilemma but this is how it works. The overall complication rates seen in patients after laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery was shown to be 7% comparing to 14.5% in patients with open incision surgery. Similarly, the death rate is a bit higher in patients with the open incision gastric bypass surgery.

The major cause of mortality in patients after gastric bypass surgery is obesity and complications like heart disease, diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea, and pulmonary embolism. General anesthesia itself poses a greater risk, and it may become a nightmare if performed in obese patients. It is difficult to pass anesthetic tube in the airway of an obese person, and if it comes out too early, it may cause serious complications. Medications and anesthetic drugs given to an obese person are largely absorbed by the extra fat and thus these patients need higher doses of medications and anesthesia which itself complicates the overall procedure.

Breathing in an obese person is often not smooth. Obese people face more difficulty in breathing normally after their surgery. Surgical procedure itself becomes more difficult if the patient is obese and thus requires high surgical skills. Due to the presence of a large amount of abdominal fat, the proper exposure of the abdominal organs becomes very hard. Moreover, extra fat also hinders the proper placement of sutures on the surface of the organs. Surgeon needs special instruments made to operate obese patients and it makes the surgical procedure more difficult.

Studies have shown that the rate of post-surgical complications is higher in obese patients as obesity is a major risk factor for pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, and wound infections. Furthermore, if the patient is having concurrent health problems like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart problems, it may further affect the prognosis after surgery. Moreover, diagnosis of complications is much harder in obese patients due to the presence of extra fat. Radiographic equipments like x-ray and Computed Tomography (CT-Scan) often give inferior results due to poor penetration.

It becomes evident from the above discussion that any type of surgery including gastric bypass surgery poses greater risks in obese patients. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you choose a team with excellent experience, knowledge, skills, and good reputation for bariatric surgery including gastric bypass surgery.


Problems with body's ability to absorb vitamins?

I have a cousin who had gastric bypass surgery and she breaks bones very frequently. Does the surgery cause your body not to absorb vitamins & minerals properly? Doesn't seem like she is able to absorb calcium. I have considered having it done but after seeing her issues--I am frightened.

My girlfriend is having the

My girlfriend is having the same symptoms, and I don't know what to do. Is there anyway you can email me privately?

Death after gastric bypass

My sister underwent gastric bypass in December 2009 and died a month later. She was in her early 30's. Immediately after surgery, she began having stomach pains and regurgitating. She would even throw up after consuming 1/2 ounces of liquid. Once readmitted she never got a chance to leave the hospital. They ran several tests but to no avail. Her condition deteriorated day by day. They punctured several holes around her abdomen to drain pus from the abscesses that formed. She developed jaundice and after a month could no longer breathe on her own. Her major organs began to fail. Her doctor decided to do an exploratory a month later once she was placed on a respiratory. Two days after that surgery, she died. Throughout that time, only one doctor mentioned that it could have been a leak that sealed itself but no one ever wanted to confirm that. Her autopsy stated that she also had Sepsis and contracted MRSAR in the hospital. Although she was overweight, she had no major health issues; no diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. It seems like Doctors want to cover up the deaths following gastric bypass. It’s sad to see a loved one go through so much pain when it could have been prevented. It is a difficult case to fight but I am placing all of my grief and anger to go forward with it and seek justice for her death.

Matthew's picture

Death After Bariatric Surgery


I sympathize with your situation. If my sister died after gastric bypass I would feel the same. It is a situation that is very hard to be comforted. Gastric by pass is indeed a risky operation. On the other hand, doctors make a lot of money from it. I know some of them will clearly present all the risks to the patient before they take the decision. Others may not talk much about the dangers. Thank you for taking the time to post your comment.

How risky this procedure is

How risky this procedure is if done in patients before 40?

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