Posted on 10/05/2021

When Are Weight Loss Surgery Complications Medical Malpractice?

When Are Weight Loss Surgery Complications Medical Malpractice?

In 2019, an estimated 256,000 Americans received bariatric surgery. Of the numerous bariatric surgery options, the gastric sleeve was the most popular, with 59.4% opting to receive this specific procedure.

Bariatric surgery is generally an effective treatment for treating obesity and creating long-term weight loss. 

However, bariatric surgery is prone to requiring additional, revisional surgeries. A Swedish study found that 27.9% of adult patients required additional revisional surgery following their initial bariatric surgery.

The gastric bypass had the highest rate of malpractice, accounting for 76% of claims, with the most common malpractice claim of delayed diagnosis in monitoring complications in the postoperative period.

If you or your loved one have recently experienced injuries, suffering, or death caused by weight loss surgery complications, you may be eligible for a medical malpractice case.

Learn more about the various types of weight-loss surgeries available today, the risks and complications associated with each procedure, and how you can get the compensation you and your family deserve.

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What Are the Different Types of Weight-Loss Surgeries?

Weight-loss surgery, or bariatric surgery, is not a specific operation, but a general term used to describe several surgical methods used to treat obesity in patients.

There are seven main types of weight-loss surgery available today:

1. Gastric Sleeve, or Sleeve Gastrectomy

The gastric sleeve is the most popular form of bariatric surgery, making up about 60% of all weight loss surgeries in America.

This procedure removes around 80% of the stomach until it resembles a thin tube or “sleeve.” Because of the restricted stomach size, patients feel fuller and satiated much quicker leading to drastic weight loss results.

2. Gastric Bypass, or Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

In gastric bypass surgery, doctors divide the stomach to create a small pouch, roughly the size of an egg, that is then connected to a divided piece of the small intestine, allowing food to “bypass” the bottom of the stomach. This also results in patients getting fuller quicker and eating significantly less. 

This procedure is the most common bariatric surgery worldwide.

3. Adjustable Gastric Band, or LAP-BAND

Laparoscopic Gastric Banding is considered the least invasive bariatric procedure. In this procedure, surgeons place a silicone ring around the top part of the stomach, restricting the amount of food that can enter the stomach. This leads to feeling fuller quicker.

4. Duodenal Switch, BPD-DS

Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS), or duodenal switch, is for people who are extremely obese. This procedure helps patients lose more weight than the gastric bypass or gastric sleeve.

This procedure is the most complex of all bariatric surgeries and is the most reliable and longest-lasting. The procedure combines a sleeve gastrectomy with an intestinal bypass. 

This means the stomach’s size is greatly reduced, and that food is bypassed into the last section of the small intestine that has digestive enzymes. 

Because food is bypassed to this section of the small intestines, the body absorbs drastically fewer calories and minerals, leading to drastic weight loss, but can also lead to nutritional deficiencies.

5. Gastric Balloon, or Intragastric Balloon

A gastric balloon is a grapefruit-sized saline-filled balloon placed inside a patient’s stomach to slow down digestion and eating.

This procedure is considered the least invasive of all bariatric procedures and is non-surgical. 

Surgeons use a thin tube with a camera attached, called an endoscope, to guide the uninflated balloon into the patient’s stomach. Once the balloon is in the stomach, it is filled with a safe, saline solution. Once inflated, gastric balloons last typically around six months and then need to be removed via endoscope again.

6. AspireAssist, or Aspiration Therapy

This new form of bariatric surgery, created in 2016, places a removable tube through the abdomen into the stomach to allow patients to drain a portion of their stomach contents after eating. 

7. Revisional Bariatric Surgeries

Revisional bariatric surgeries happen when surgeons need to make revisions or corrections to previous bariatric surgeries. The main cause for revisional surgeries is insufficient weight loss or weight regain.

What Are the Potential Risks and Complications of Weight-loss Surgery?

As with all forms of surgery, there are potential risks and complications. The side effects and risks will vary depending on what type of bariatric procedure was performed.

Common potential side effects related to general bariatric surgery include:

  • Anastomotic leaks
  • Acid reflux
  • Infection
  • Obstruction of stomach
  • Weight gain 
  • Failure to lose weight as planned
  • Inability to eat certain kinds of foods
  • Vitamin, mineral, and iron deficiency

Gastric Bypass:

  • Breakage
  • Hernia
  • Leakage
  • Perforation of stomach and intestines
  • Skin separation

Gastric Sleeve:

  • Blood clots
  • Hernia
  • Leakage
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Gallstones

Gastric Band:

  • Blood clots
  • Food intolerance
  • Band slipping
  • Infection

Duodenal Switch, BPD-DS:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Bleeding
  • Low blood sugar
  • Breathing problems
  • Stomach perforation
  • Gallstones

Gastric Balloon:

  • Blockage of food into the stomach
  • Infection
  • Back and belly pain
  • Low weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling bloated

Aspiration Therapy:

  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

When Does Medical Malpractice Happen?

Bariatric medical malpractice frequently occurs when surgeons perform surgery on people who are unsuitable candidates due to existing health conditions. 

Severely obese men over the age of 50 with hypertension have the highest mortality rates after gastric bypass surgery.

Other common types of bariatric medical malpractice are caused by:

  • Inexperienced or incompetent surgeons performing the procedure
  • Leakage immediately following the bariatric procedure
  • Failure to diagnose serious complications following post-operation
  • Not recognizing or treating internal hernias and pulmonary embolism
  • Failure to diagnose gastric perforation during operation, causing internal bleeding

How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?

Plaintiffs filing lawsuits must provide proof to the court of medical negligence and breach of duty of care. You should keep track of all medical records and communications between you and your surgeon to be presented as evidence in court.

The other deciding factors in winning a medical malpractice case are proving the cause of injury and showing evidence of injuries and damage caused by the surgery.

Book Your No-Cost Medical Malpractice Consultation

If you or a family member recently experienced serious weight loss surgery complications, and are considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, contact the Medical Malpractice team at Grover Lewis Johnson.

At Grover Lewis Johnson, we have over 25 years of success and experience handling medical malpractice lawsuits, including those caused by weight-loss complications.

Don’t wait any longer to get the compensation you and your family deserve. Book your no-cost medical malpractice consultation today.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels