Medically Reviewed by:John Rabkin, MD, FACSBoard Certified Bariatric Surgeon
Potential gastric sleeve complications and side effects include:
- Staple line leaks
- Digestion issues
- Sagging skin from rapid weight loss
Fortunately, serious complications are relatively rare and not usually life threatening; Gastric sleeve surgery has a survival rate of 99.8%. There are also several ways to reduce the risk of complications.
Read the sections below for more information.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Click on any of the topics below to jump directly to that section
- General Safety
- Serious Complications
- Side Effects
- How to Avoid Complications
- Patient Community & Expert Advice
- The surgery is very safe. It has a 99.81% survival rate
Compare the 0.19% mortality rate of the gastric sleeve to other well-known procedures:
- Gallbladder removal: 0.15% mortality rate (1)
- Hip replacement: 0.29% mortality rate (2)
- Cesarean section (“C-Section”): 0.40% mortality rate (3)
In other words, gastric sleeve is about as risky as gallbladder surgery and a lot less risky than a hip replacement or a C-section.
Typical gastric sleeve results include:
- 1-year weight loss: 70% of excess weight, on average
- 5-year weight loss: 55% of excess weight, on average, after weight regain
- Complete resolution or significant improvement for at least 15 obesity-related health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea
See our Gastric Sleeve Results section for more information about weight loss and health benefits to expect.
Tap here to expand a chart of gastric sleeve complication & mortality rates.
|Studies||# of GS Patients in Study||Mortality/ Complication Rate||Year|
|Study AD||74||Mortality – 0% |
Short- & Long-term Complication Rate – 15%
|Study Z||2,570 (meta analysis)||Mortality – 0.17% |
Complication: From 0% to 24% (from 0 to 15.3% for studies with over 100 participants)
|Study S||135||Mortality – 0%|
Complication – 5.1%
(all gastric fistula (PGF))
|Study T||261||Mortality – 0.7%|
Complication – 8.4%
|Study U||120||Mortality – 0%|
Complication – 0%
|Study V||148||Major complications: 2.7%||2008|
|Study W||53||Complication – 9.4%||2008|
|Study X||118||Mortality – 0.85%|
Complication – 15.3%
|Study Y||216||Mortality – 0%|
Complication – 6.3%
- Complications are relatively rare & not usually life-threatening
- Staple line leaks happen in 2% of patients
- Bleeding happens in 1% of patients
- Stenosis/strictures happen in 1% of patients
The most common serious complications include (from most common to least common)…
- Staple line leaks – 2.1% of patients on average (between 1.09% and 4.66%, depending on the study) experience staple line leaks (4) (5).
- Bleeding – 1.2% of patients (6).
- Stenosis/Strictures – 0.6% of patients (7).
Regarding gastric sleeve staple line leaks, there appears to be ways to reduce the risk, depending on your surgeon’s materials and technique.
For example, a review of many gastric sleeve staple line leak studies found that leaks after a traditional gastric sleeve procedure occur less often (1.09%) when using an absorbable polymer membrane (APM) to reinforce the staple line.
- Digestion issues are possible from the surgery
- You could end up with sagging skin from the rapid weight loss
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a relatively common short-term issue for new gastric sleeve patients. In the first year after surgery, about 20% of patients experience it, but that rate drops to around 3% after 3 years (8).
Other potential gastric sleeve side effects include (9) (10):
- Indigestion (Dyspepsia)
- Intolerance to certain foods
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
Most gastric sleeve patients lose weight very quickly after surgery – as much as 70% of excess weight in the first year. Since most patients’ skin has been stretched out for so long, it is unable to “bounce back.” The result is sagging skin.
In addition to being embarrassing, sagging skin can cause health, hygiene, and lifestyle issues such as:
- Difficulty getting dressed
- Difficulty exercising, which may impact long-term weight maintenance and health
- Skin fold rashes or breakdown of skin
- Skin fold infections
Body-contouring undergarments may be enough to solve the issue. For more serious cases, plastic surgery is needed to remove the extra skin.
See our Plastic Surgery After Weight Loss page for more information.
- You should educate yourself, family, & friends about what to expect
- You need to follow your surgeon's advice to the letter
- Adhere to your pre-surgery diet regimen
- You'll need to get a sleep apnea syndrome test
- It's important that you adhere to your post-op diet & exercise regimen
Many potential gastric sleeve complications can be completely avoided with the right behavior, including:
- Pick a good surgeon and follow their advice to the letter
- Educate yourself ahead of time about what to expect
- Educate your family and friends
- Lose as much weight as possible prior to surgery
- Eat the right gastric sleeve diet in the months leading up to surgery
- Get tested for sleep apnea syndrome several weeks before surgery (and address the issue if it exists before moving forward)
- Plan for at least 2 weeks of recovery time
- Exercise right away after surgery, but take it easy at first.
- Take action to reduce the risk of a blood clot, including the use of:
- Compression stockings
- Pneumatic compression devices
- Blood thinners after surgery
- Have an effective support system of friends, family, and weight loss surgery support groups
See our Bariatric Surgery Complications page for more information about each of these points.
- You can read about the experiences of other gastric sleeve patients
- You Can "Ask the Expert"
We would love to hear your experiences with gastric sleeve complications. Your insights are invaluable to making sure other people have the tools to meet their goals.
We would also be happy to answer any questions you may have about gastric sleeve complications.
Please use the form below to share your experience or ask a question.
Questions From Other Visitors*
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page.
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