Bariatric surgery (or weight loss surgery) is often recommended for seriously obese individuals who are unable to lose weight by traditional means such as diet and exercise. Bariatric surgery alters a person’s digestive system and can help a person to lose weight, to avoid health problems caused by obesity, and to live longer. However, in some cases, bariatric surgery can be deadly.
A 2005 study showed that nearly 40% of bariatric surgery patients experience complications and 1 out of every 50 people undergoing bariatric surgery die within a month of the surgery. This may not sound like a lot, but with an estimated 140,000 people a year undergoing weight loss surgery, this adds up to about 2,800 deaths a year.
This rate is nearly twice that of operations of similar complexity. The biggest factor that contributes to deaths from bariatric surgery is doctor inexperience. The 2005 study also found that patients have a greater chance of complications when the surgeon has performed fewer than 70 to 100 procedures. These patients also have a higher risk of complications than the patients of more experienced doctors.
Other factors found to contribute to the high fatality rate are:
Patients are treated in hospitals that lack appropriately-sized equipment for obese patients. This includes diagnostic tools, CAT scanners, operating tables, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and other equipment.
Physician fatigue. Some physicians had back-to-back surgeries through the day. This led to doctor exhaustion and put patients at risk.
Suture line leaks.
Post surgery complications.
Malnutrition caused when the surgery blocks calories and nutrients from entering the body.
Incisional hernias at the surgery site.
Infection caused by lack of proper sterility or improper after care.
Perforation of the stomach.
Lack of response to patient complaints.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.