Bariatric surgery is generally considered safe as the associated complications and side effects have decreased significantly in recent years.* However, bariatric procedures, like other types of surgery, carry some inherent risks including a rare condition called bowel obstruction. This condition occurs when food cannot properly pass through the body, causing abdominal pain, cramps, and other serious symptoms. Treatment for bowel obstruction after gastric bypass surgery may require hospitalization as it is a serious health threat. The doctors coordinating with Tijuana Bariatrics take measures to minimize patients' risk of bowel obstruction. Using advanced laparoscopic techniques, for example, has been shown to decrease the prevalence of this concern.*
What Causes Bowel Obstruction after Bariatric Surgery?
Bowel obstruction can be caused due to many factors, including eating a large piece of food that gets stuck in the intestines, severe constipation, scar tissue (adhesions) formed after abdominal operations, hernia (either internal or on the abdominal wall), or intussusceptions (twisted intestines). The bowels can even become obstructed due to adhesions or hernias years after surgery.
Gastric bypass surgery alters the anatomy of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in a way that gastric sleeve and LAP-BAND® surgery do not. This modification increases the chances of developing a bowel obstruction. Studies show that small bowel obstruction after gastric bypass occurs in approximately three percent of patients. Additionally, small bowel obstruction has also been observed as a late complication (30 days after surgery) of duodenal switch surgery.
Symptoms of Bowel Obstruction
A blocked intestine or bowel can take two forms: partially or fully blocked. Both forms can cause debilitating abdominal pain, and also result in symptoms such as severe nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, bloating, or an enlarged abdomen. Bariatric patients should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of these indicators. It is important to note that several of these symptoms are also associated with conditions such as hernias, Crohn's disease, severe constipation, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.
A thorough medical examination is required in order to properly diagnose bowel obstruction. You should stop eating and drinking until you can be examined. Your doctor may take abdominal x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans to determine if the symptoms are being caused by bowel obstruction, and will then plan the treatment accordingly.
Partial obstruction, in which some food and fluids can still move through the intestines, does not usually necessitate surgical intervention if the patient has been hydrated and stabilized. You will be provided with appropriate medications to ease any discomfort and often be advised to follow a low-fiber diet until your condition improves.
Surgery becomes necessary in cases of a complete obstruction. The surgeon will treat the cause of the blockage, such as excising scar tissue, to provide relief. In some cases, the doctor may remove a section of the blocked intestine as well.