M32 — August 2012 — Gastric Bypass Complications
Intro: Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes are just a few of the life threatening reasons people consider having weight loss surgery. Gastric bypass, of course, can bring complications of its own. That's why doctors always have patients weigh the pros and cons of their decision carefully. Here's Dennis Douda for Medical Edge.
"I'm glad I did it. I don't regret it."
Penny Wheeler loves feeling lighter on her feet and healthy again. Gastric Bypass surgery allowed her to hit her target weight loss goal. Penny says her weight began to soar after a successful fight against cancer. At her peak of 330-pounds all dieting solutions had failed and doctors gave her a dire warning.
"If you don't have this surgery, you will die within a year. That was an eye opener right there."
Mayo Clinic Gastrointestinal Surgeon Dr. Michael Sarr performed a Roux-en Y procedure. He explained to Penny it would decrease the amount she could eat as well as the length of intestine where food is absorbed. He also explained it would not all be smooth sailing.
"Like Dr. Sarr said, I'll do the surgery; you have to do everything else afterward, which I did."
Regular exercise is a must. She also had to make radical changes to how and what she eats, some changes dictated by her newly sensitive digestive tract.
"Milk gets me sick, like you know I was not lactose intolerant before the surgery, but I am now."
Vitamins and calcium supplements are now necessary to fill nutritional deficits. Patients on heart medications or immunosuppressive drugs need to be monitored more closely. Dr. Sarr says nearly half his pre-bypass patients struggle with depression, and even successful weight loss can create emotional strain.
"Spouses may have trouble. You know, you get comfortable with your spouse and then one of them loses weight and the other doesn't. There can be some jealousy there. They may lose some of their friends."
Scarring from Penny's bypass contributed to an intestinal blockage which required follow-up surgery. But, Dr. Sarr says there are major benefits as well. Diabetic patients often see their insulin usage or medication needs decrease dramatically. Likewise, high pressure becomes easier to control.
"We expect 80 percent of people to decrease the amount of medicines they're on, 50 percent to get off their anti-hypertensive."
For Penny the benefits were life-saving and life changing.
"I'm very happy."
I'm Dennis Douda for the Mayo Clinic News Network.
If it's deemed medically necessary insurance often pays for gastric bypass. Dr. Sarr (Sahr) says one other thing to consider is that, while the body may lose large amounts of fat after bypass, it does not lose skin. So, many patients need follow-up cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin from the waist, neck, arms and thighs, which may or may not be covered by insurance.
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