Bariatric Journal

Gastric Sleeve Complications, Side Effects

Gastric Sleeve Surgery: Complications, Side Effects

Learn the typical side effects patient’s experience and complications of gastric sleeve surgery.

Gastric sleeve is a standard weight loss surgery option in the United States. The surgery is a significant decision for those considering it to help them lose excess weight due to their obesity or morbid obesity. One of the significant factors associated with deciding to follow through with this surgery is the complications and risks involved in the procedure. Like all other surgeries, there are risks to be considered. Before deciding whether or not gastric sleeve is for you, all of these should be addressed and assessed according to your current health condition. The gastric sleeve is irreversible as it creates a small pouch for food and reduces the stomach permanently. The new sleeve helps to keep portion sizes down, which leads to rapid weight loss. Learning how to handle the new stomach size is vital as excessive eating can lead to a stretched-out sleeve over time.

Risks Associated with Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Some risks associated with this weight loss surgery include (and are not limited to):

Excessive bleeding
Reaction to anesthesia
Difficulty breathing
Gastrointestinal problems such as leakages
Blood clots
Death (rare cases)

While these risks are associated with the post-op gastric sleeve, there are also many long-term risks and complications that should be considered carefully when deciding whether this surgery is for you. Most patients do tolerate surgery well; however, in some cases, there are some problems later in life associated with one’s gastric sleeve surgery. These complications can include:

The onset of dumping syndrome (diarrhea, nausea/vomiting)
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Bowel obstruction
Stomach perforation

Nausea is caused by eating too much food following your weight loss surgery procedure. You must understand that your stomach has been dramatically reduced, so it is easy to reach capacity fast. Nausea also occurs when you do not chew your food enough.

What is Dumping Syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is symptoms that can develop because of surgery that removes all or a portion of the stomach. Rapid gastric emptying occurs when the undigested content of the stomach moves too quickly through the bowel. Symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps can happen in those that eat too much or too fast post-op. To prevent these symptoms, adjust your diet so that light foods that are easy to digest are consumed the most.
Other Complications and Risks Associated with Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Some other less common risks or complications include heart attack, spleen injuries, internal bleeding, stroke, irregular heartbeat, eating disorders, congestive heart failure, weight gain, anemia, gallbladder disease, urinary tract infection, and weakness. Always speak with your doctor to understand all risks and discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Non-Physical Complications and Risks

Most gastric sleeve patients lose a significant amount of weight after surgery. This dramatic weight loss can cause social difficulty and emotional issues. These changes can be hard to manage and may require assistance through support groups or with counseling. The body will become soft, skin loses and seem flabby. Some patients decide to embark on plastic surgery after their weight loss journey. Some procedures they choose include arm lift, corset trunkplasty, tummy tuck or bra-line back lift.

Statistics Associated with Gastric Sleeve Risks

Some recent studies report that the four most common complications are GERD, leaks, bleeding, and stenosis. Only 2.2% of patients experience leaks, 1.2% bleeding and .06% stenosis. 1 out of 5 patients does develop GERD. These are all minor complications and are easy to treat.

Tips for Preventing Complications During Your Gastric Sleeve Surgery

It’s always important to be educated on how you can reduce your chance of developing risks or complications associated with your gastric sleeve surgery. This includes researching the surgeon you use, be as detailed as possible with your medical history during the initial consultation and understanding these risks and complications before surgery. Following the post-op diet and guidelines strictly will also help prevent the chance of these things occurring too.



Bariatric Journal is the leading bariatric surgery resource site for patients. Read information on bariatric procedures, guides, find a surgeon and more.