Is Bariatric Surgery Safe for Patients with Cirrhosis?

June 28, 2017 — by Fernando Garcia
Tags: Cirrhosis Bariatric Surgery

A woman holding her stomachAt Tijuana Bariatrics, we put an emphasis on patient wellness and proper planning. By tailoring a surgery to the needs of a patient, we can help that patients achieve their wellness and weight loss goals safely and effectively. That's why we put an emphasis on custom planning of a bariatric surgery procedure, taking all of a patient's health issues into account.

There has been some discussion as to whether bariatric surgery is safe for people with cirrhosis. Let's take a few moments to cover the basics of cirrhosis before looking at how the condition may affect candidacy for a bariatric surgery procedure.

About Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a serious liver condition that occurs in late stages of liver scarring. Whenever the liver is damaged and attempts to repair itself, scar tissue (fibrosis) forms as a response. As more and more scar tissue accumulates, it becomes more difficult for the liver to function as it normally would.

Cirrhosis can be caused by a variety of things, including alcoholism/alcohol abuse, hepatitis B and C, fatty liver disease, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, and so forth. In late stages of cirrhosis, the condition is potentially life-threatening given the impact on liver function.

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

Some common signs and symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bruising easily
  • Itchy or irritated skin
  • Jaundice
  • Ascites
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Redness in the palms
  • Enlarged breasts in men

Hypothetical Risks for Cirrhotic Bariatric Surgery Patients

Since many people who are morbidly obese tend to suffer from some form of fatty liver disease, there's a likelihood that the patient will also suffer from some form of cirrhosis. Bariatric surgeons and medical professionals wondered if the weight loss surgery procedure would have an impact on overall patient wellness. Further, there was concern that the surgery may lead to additional health problems for cirrhotics given the impact on the body and diet.

These were legitimate worries, which led to a number of studies regarding weight loss surgeries and people with cirrhosis.

Studies on Bariatric Surgery and Cirrhosis

The various studies conducted found that people with cirrhosis can undergo bariatric surgery safely and without worries of major health risks. Studies by the Mayo Clinic from 2009 and 2015 found that cirrhotic patients could safely undergo gastric sleeve surgery without an increased risk of complications.

In fact, the 2009 Mayo Clinic analysis suggested that bariatric surgery may be able to help reverse cirrhosis. Citing a study from 2004, some bariatric surgery patients experienced reduced or decreased liver fibrosis after their weight loss procedure was performed.

Conclusions That Can Be Made

More research needs to be performed to consider the long-term risks and benefits of weight loss surgery in cirrhotics. That said, the current findings seem promising for those who are morbidly obese and also suffering from cirrhosis.

While other factors may come into play determining candidacy for weight loss surgery, cirrhosis per se does not prevent patients from undergoing a bariatric procedure. The health benefits of bariatric surgery can potentially help address liver problems.

With this in mind, a weight loss surgery may want to rethink the type of surgery a patient undergoes if he or she suffers from cirrhosis. These matters can be discussed in more detail with a patient during the consultation process.

Contact Tijuana Bariatrics

For more information about health issues and concerns related to weight loss surgery, be sure to contact our weight loss surgery specialists today. The team at Tijuana Bariatrics looks forward to your visit and discussing these matters in much greater detail.