, Volume 398, Issue 5, pp 669-686
Date: 22 Mar 2013

Acute complications after laparoscopic bariatric procedures: update for the general surgeon

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Development and widespread use of laparoscopic bariatric surgery exposes emergency room physicians and general surgeons to face acute or chronic surgical complications of bariatric surgery.


The most common surgical emergencies after bariatric surgery are examined based on an extensive review of bariatric surgery literature and on the personal experience of the authors' practice in four high-volume bariatric surgery centers.


An orderly stepwise approach to the bariatric patient with an emergency condition is advisable. Resuscitation should follow the same protocol adopted for the non-bariatric patients. Consultation with the bariatric surgeon should be obtained early, and referral to the bariatric center should be considered whenever possible. The identification of the surgical procedure to which the patient was submitted will orient in the diagnosis of the acute condition. Procedure-specific complication should always be taken into consideration in the differential diagnosis. Acute slippage is the most frequent complication that needs emergency treatment in a laparoscopic gastric banding. Sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypasses may present with life-threatening suture leaks or suture line bleeding. Gastric greater curvature plication (investigational restrictive procedure) can present early complications related to prolonged postoperative vomiting. Both gastric bypass and bilio-pancreatic diversion may cause anastomotic marginal ulcer, bleeding, or rarely perforation and severe stenosis, while small bowel obstruction due to internal hernia represents a surgical emergency, also caused by trocar site hernia, intussusceptions, adhesions, strictures, kinking, or blood clots. Rapid weight loss after bariatric surgery can cause cholecystitis or choledocholithiasis, which are difficult to treat after bypass procedures.


The general surgeon should be informed about modern bariatric procedures, their potential acute complications, and emergency management.