Dangers of bariatric surgery

Anjana Kankanala

Chennai, Sept 26: A month after undergoing bariatric surgery, or wight-loss surgery, a woman in Chennai died on Saturday. Valarmathi, 46, was treated at the Lifeline hospital in Kilpauk, along with her three children who were also suffering from obesity. However, Valarmathi developed complications after the surgery and died in the hospital.

Valarmathi weighted 160kgs, her son 130kgs and her daughters 122kgs and 97kgs. Though Valarmathi died, the children survived the procedures. 

Bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures performed on people who have obesity. Weight loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or through removal of a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy) or by resecting and re-routing the small intestine to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery).

These procedures cause significant long-term loss of weight, recovery from diabetes and improvement in cardiovascular risk factors. However, it is possible to gain weight again after surgery if diet and exercise guidelines are not followed. Complications after the surgery are also frequent, like gastric dumping syndrome (bloating and diarrhea after eating), leaks at the surgical site, incisional hernia, infections and pneumonia. Rapid weight loss after obesity surgery can contribute to the development of gallstones and can have adverse effects on the kidneys. Vitamin deficiencies of micro-nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, fat soluble vitamins, thiamine, and folate are common as the body’s ability to absorb food decreases post-surgery.

The most common post-operation risks are acid reflux, anesthesia-related risks, chronic nausea and vomiting, infection, obstruction of stomach, weight gain or failure to lose weight.

The level of excess weight that’s considered unhealthy for your body size is characterised as overweight or obese. This characterisation is based on the body mass index (BMI), a calculation made by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters (kg/m2).

For adults:

  • A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight
  • A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese

It is possible to combat excess weight without surgery, in most cases. Healthy eating habits and regular exercise can help reduce BMI.

  • Eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, focusing on cardio exercises like running, cycling and swimming.
  • Cutting down on the consumption of fatty and sugary foods.
  • Using vegetable-based oils rather than animal-based fats.
  • Replacing carbohydrates like rice with whole wheat chapattis.