Sleeve Gastrectomy and the Risk of Leaks After Surgery

By Tijuana Bariatrics on June 24, 2014

A woman who has lost considerable weight in a large pair of pantsDr. Fernando Garcia believes that the gastric sleeve is the superior option for those who wish to undergo bariatric surgery. There are many compelling reasons for it. Gastric sleeve surgery is low-maintenance, safe, and very effective, yielding weight loss results comparable to gastric bypass surgery.

The team at our Tijuana weight loss center recognizes that while the procedure is very safe, it is not without risk. Let's take a moment to consider gastric leaks after weight loss surgery and why this is a complication that needs to be taken seriously.

What is a gastric leak?

Gastric leaks refer to the spillage of digestive fluid and partially digested food from the stomach in the body. This can lead to extreme pain and damage to adjacent organs. It is one of the most serious complications that can occur after undergoing a bariatric procedure.

Are leaks common after gastric sleeve surgery?

Thankfully leaks after sleeve gastrectomy are rare. Research published in a 2012 volume of Surgical Endoscopy found that leakage occurred in only 2.4% of patients worldwide. The risk is slightly higher for patients who are super-obese at 2.9%.

Even though the risk is low, we take these matters very seriously.

How is it possible for leaks to occur?

When a patient undergoes a sleeve gastrectomy, the overall stomach size is reduced. When removing the excess stomach tissue and resealing the smaller stomach, staples are used. Sometimes these staples can come loose, but as noted above, this is a rare occurrence. Gastric leaks can also occur in gastric bypass surgeries given the amount of revision that the stomach and small intestine undergo, though again, the occurrence is rare.

Symptoms of Gastric Leaks

Symptoms of gastric leaks to watch out for include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • High heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Odd drainage from incision site

How Gastric Leaks Are Treated

Gastric leaks are most commonly treated with emergency surgery that will drain the leaked gastric fluid, treat any damage to surrounding organs, and repair the leak in the stomach. Patients will need to be fed via a feeding tube that leads directly into the intestine until the leak in the stomach is healed. The use of antibiotics is not uncommon for treatment in order to address or prevent infection of organs exposed to the gastric fluid.

What We Do to Prevent Potential Gastric Leaks

In order to prevent leakage following a gastric sleeve, Dr. Garcia makes sure to triple check every patient to ensure staples are secure and that no digestive juices escape. Since patients will be housed at a nearby hotel for the first crucial days of post-surgical recovery, this will allow any complications to be caught as soon as possible and treated in a timely fashion.

What Patients Can Do to Prevent Potential Gastric Leaks

Patients are advised to follow their instructions for pre-operative and post-operative care to the letter. This ensures the best conditions for healing. With regard to the post-operative instructions, this helps ensure that patients do not place undue stress on their revised stomach pouch and prevent multiple complications from occurring.

Learn More About Your Surgical Weight Loss Options

If you would like more information about gastric sleeve surgery and your many other options available for advanced treatment for obesity and morbid obesity, be sure to contact our bariatric surgery and weight loss center today. Our entire team looks forward to meeting you in person and helping you achieve the best and safest results from the procedure.

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Dr. Garcia is awesome. I chose bariatrics vertical sleeve surgery. I've lost 85 lbs. since January 2017. No complications... I regret not doing this years ago. Debbie M.

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