Gastric bypass surgery riskiest for those who need it most

CLEVELAND: A study of 335 gastric bypass surgery patients at University Hospitals of Cleveland is being highlighted by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) as an important warning for people considering the procedure: Physicians report important risks associated with surgery on the morbidly obese, and urge potential patients to seek care from physicians and staff with significant surgical experience and gastric bypass programs involving comprehensive post-surgical follow-up.

The annual meeting of the RSNA featured a study authored by Elmar Merkle, MD, radiologist, and Thomas Stellato, MD, surgeon and founder of the bariatric program at University Hospitals of Cleveland. Dr. Merkle, who is currently associate professor in the department of radiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., presented the findings, which concluded that the same health risks that make morbidly obese patients eligible for gastric bypass surgery also leave them susceptible to complications during and after the surgery.

Radiologic imaging following 335 Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgeries helped identify 57 complications from surgery, including suture tears and leaks, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and infection.

Gastric bypass surgery involves stapling the upper stomach to create a small pouch that is then attached to the small intestine, reducing the capacity of the stomach. "This should not be considered a cosmetic procedure," said Elmar Merkle, M.D., the lead author.

"People need to be aware of the potential complications of this surgery. It basically should be the last option we can offer the morbidly obese, after other less invasive interventions such as diet and exercise have been tried."

Surgeon Thomas Stellato agrees: "Many media stars have popularized this surgery which, for the right patient, is a true life-saver. However, surgery like this must never be taken lightly. The more than 500 patients who underwent su

Contact: Eileen Korey
University Hospitals of Cleveland

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