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The Hidden Dangers of Bariatric Surgeries

Authors: Kelly Daly, Waqar Ahmad, Rouzbeh Motiei-Langroudi, and Don K. Juravin


There is limited statistical information about the dangers of bariatric surgery. Patients, therefore, undergo surgery without being aware or fully understanding the life-threatening risks involved. Every patient needs to know what their risks are, the severe, ongoing complications suffered post-surgery, and most importantly, that there are alternatives to bariatric surgery.

Abstract (Research Summary)

  • 1 in 200 dies within 1 to 30 days of surgery.
  • 3 in 25 die post-surgery.
  • 1 in 12 suffer life-threatening complications.
  • 74% suffer long-term complications.
  • 100% suffer deficiencies (hair loss, anemia, etc.).
  • 7% require re-operation.
  • 50% regain weight.

Death Is Much More Common Than Told

1 in 200 dies in surgery

  • 1 in 200 dies during the operation or within 30 days following bariatric surgery (Buchwald 2004).
  • Patients with inexperienced surgeons (completed <20 gastric bypass surgeries) have a 4.7 fold increased risk of death at 30 days, indicating that ~9 in 100 will die within 30 days of surgery (Flum 2004).

1 in 200 Dies in Gastric Bypass Surgery


Paul’s story: Instead of being discharged 2 days post-surgery, Paul was in a coma for 2 months and hospitalized for a further 6 months. Paul suffered an undetected leak during surgery leading to infection and several strokes (lost use of both legs and right arm, and right eye is completely blind). Paul’s surgeon is defending his 11th lawsuit regarding surgery malpractice and is free to continue practicing despite these lawsuits. Read the full story here.

7 in 100 die within a year

  • Average death rate post-surgery (Flum 2004, Maciejewski 2011, Flum 2005):
    • 30 days: ~2%
    • 90 days: 2.8%
    • 1 year: 4.6% to 7%
    • 6 years: ~7%
    • 15 years: 11.8%
  • Average death rate 1 year post-surgery dependant on sex (Flum 2005):
    • Men: 7.5%
      • Men have a 300% higher mortality than women, even after controlling for BMI (Livingston 2002).
    • Women: 3.7%
  • Average death rate 1 year post-surgery dependant on age (Flum 2005):
    • Age 35 to 44:
      • Men: 5.6%
      • Women: 2.7%
    • Age 45 to 54:
      • Men: 7.7%
      • Women: 3.1%
    • >55 years:
      • ~3 times higher mortality from surgery than younger patients, suggesting they lack the reserve to recover from complications (Livingston 2002)
    • Age 65 to 74:
      • Men: 12.9%
      • Women: 6.2%
    • Age 75 and older:
      • Men: 51%
      • Women: 40%

7 of 100 Die Within a Year with Gastric Bypass Surgery


Joanne’s story: A husband is taking a crash course in single parenting after his wife became the latest victim of gastric bypass surgery. Joanne, who weighed 322 pounds, opted for the surgery to help her fall pregnant. Joanne fell pregnant and lost weight, but couldn’t stop losing weight. Gastric bypass surgery starved Joanne to death, leaving her with nutritional deficiencies that required a steady stream of supplements to keep her alive. Before long, she developed a deadly infection, and her husband made the heartbreaking decision to remove her from life support. Read full story here.

Christy and Nora’s stories: Christy and Nora both lost their husbands within three weeks of surgery due to post-surgery complications, after being told by their surgeons that there was no risk involved. Read full story here.

Angela’s story: Angela, aged 46, had gastric bypass to lose weight and start a healthier life for herself. Angela suffered severe complications, leaving her starving to death. She dropped to 4 stone, was confined to a wheelchair, and died 3 years after surgery. Read full story here.

Post Surgery Complications

8 in 100 suffer severe life-threatening complications

  • The risk of severe life-threatening complications dependant on weight (Livingston 2002):
    • Women: 4% (90 kg (200 lbs)) to 7.5% (272 kg (600 lbs))
    • Men: 7% (90 kg (200 lbs) to 13% (272 kg (600 lbs))
  • Severe life-threatening complications post-surgery:
    • 8.3% suffer dumping syndrome characterized by severe low blood sugar, abdominal pain, and diarrhea resulting in the need for further surgery (Z’graggen 2008, Service 2005, Moreira 2008, Patti 2005)

Severe life-threatening complications post-surgery


    • 6.1% suffer pulmonary complications (Sjöström 2004)

6.1% suffer pulmonary complications


    • 2.1% suffer serious infection at site of surgery (leakage or abscess) (Sjöström 2004)

2.1% suffer serious infection at site of surgery


    • 1.3% suffer pulmonary embolism (clot in the blood circulation of lungs) (Sugarman 2004)

1.3% suffer pulmonary embolism


    • 0.8% suffer thrombosis or embolism (coagulation or clotting of blood in blood vessels) (Sjöström 2004)

0.8% suffer thrombosis or embolism


Christina’s story: Christina shares the grievous story of her friend who died because of post-surgery complications. Christina’s loss is big and she advises everyone against this surgery due to the dangerous risks involved. See full story here.

Marie and Sharisse’s stories: Both Marie and Sharisse suffered several complications following surgery, including ulcers, twisted bowel, kidney stones and infection, bladder infection, nutritional deficiencies, severe pain and nausea. This resulted in terrible emotional and psychological stress, and lawsuits are being considered. See the full stories here (Marie) and here (Sharisse).

Jen’s story: Jen suffered tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat) the day after surgery resulting in emergency exploratory surgery. Her twisted bowel resulted in daily need of liquid codeine (powerful pain relief). Because Jen was unable to defecate for 9 days, she had a tube inserted to remove her body waste. She has also suffered a hernia and bowel infection. See the full story here.

74% suffer long term complications

  • 74% suffer long term complications such as:
    • 32 in 100 suffer incisional hernias (a protrusion of an organ or piece of tissue from its normally contained space through surgical incision site) (Sugarman 2004).

74% Suffer Long Term Complications


    • 74% suffer hyperoxaluria (excessive excretion of oxalates via urine) leading to kidney stones and occasionally End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (Patel 2009). Hyperoxaluria is caused when dietary calcium and oxalates are not excreted via feces but are instead taken into the blood as a result of the jejunum being bypassed (Nasr 2008).
    • 12 in 100 suffer symptomatic marginal ulcers (Sugarman 2004) (an open sore on an external or internal surface of the body, caused by a break in the skin or mucous membrane which fails to heal) resulting in 22% requiring surgery (Coblijn 2015).

12 in 100 suffer symptomatic marginal ulcers


    • 7 in 100 suffer stomal stenosis (the anastomotic stricture or the unwanted narrowing of the intestine linked to the stomach via surgery). Anastomotic leakage is the most common complication resulting in death post-surgery (Goldfeder 2006).

7 in 100 suffer stomal stenosis


    • 6 in 100 suffer major wound infections (bacteria or other microorganisms colonize in wounds, causing either a delay in wound healing or deterioration of the wound) (Sugarman 2004).

6 in 100 suffer major wound infections


    • 4 in 100 suffer bowel obstructions (small or large bowel becomes completely blocked leading to extreme pain, bloating, vomiting, and constipation), often resulting in surgery (Sugarman 2004).

4 in 100 suffer bowel obstructions


    • 3% suffer anastomotic leaks (leaking of digestive juices and partially digested foods through the new connection between the intestine and stomach) (Sugarman 2004).

3% suffer anastomotic leaks


  • Long term diseases and complications remain unresolved following surgery (Buchwald 2004):
    • 21.5% still suffer hypertension (elevated blood pressure leading to coronary artery disease, stroke and kidney failure)
    • 30% still suffer hyperlipidaemia (elevated lipids in the blood leading to cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis)
    • 14% still suffer diabetes (uncontrolled blood glucose levels leading to blindness, peripheral numbness and extreme fatigue)
    • 14.3% still suffer sleep apnoea (blocked airways during sleep leading to unknown breathing cessation)

Alondra’s story: Alondra regrets gastric bypass surgery due to post surgery complications and deficiencies. Complications have made it difficult for her to socialise, and she misses playing with her nephew. Alondra suffers several vitamin deficiencies, sleep apnea (shortness of breath during sleep) and stress. Read full story here.

100% suffer deficiencies

Consequences of common deficiencies include anemia, cardiovascular disorders, alopecia (hair fall), loss of libido, malaise (feeling of illness or discomfort), lethargy, mental and psychotic disorders (mania, insomnia, hypersomnia, stress and anxiety), osteoporosis and neurological dysfunctions (neuropathies, amnesia and ataxia).

Nutrient deficiency is proportional to the length of absorptive area and to the percentage of weight loss, and occurs in almost every single patient (Alvarez-Leite 2004). Because the absorptive part of the small intestine (aka duodenum and jejunum) is bypassed, long term and serious deficiencies occur as a result of inadequate nutrient absorption and patients require lifelong supplementation (Xanthakos 2009, Vargas-Ruiz 2008, Slater 2004).

Micronutrient deficiencies

  • 4% to 52% suffer serious neurological dysfunction as a result of micronutrient deficiencies, including neuropathy (numbness and weakness), memory loss, decreased cognitive abilities and motor functions (Berger 2008).
  • 16 in 25 patients develop anemia due to iron and Vitamin B12 deficiency 3 years after surgery leading to lethargy, dizziness, memory loss and cardiovascular disease (Vargas-Ruiz 2008, Alvarez-Leite 2004).
  • Nearly 2 in 3 suffer Vitamin B12 deficiency (Halverson 1986) resulting in anemia. Vitamin B12 supplementation does not work in 19% of cases (Brolin 1998).
  • Nearly 1 in 2 suffer iron deficiency causing anemia post surgery (Brolin 1998, Brolin 1999, Bavaresco 2010, Alvarez-Leite 2004, Halverson 1986). Iron supplementation does not work in 57% of cases (Brolin 1998).
  • 48.7% to 69% of patients develop hyperparathyroidism in the fourth postoperative year (Balsa 2008, Slater 2004), resulting in bone resorption, osteopenia and bone pain.
  • 17.6% suffer Vitamin B6 deficiency leading to microcytic anemia, glossitis (swollen tongue), depression, confusion, and a weakened immune function (Clements 2006).
  • 1 in 77 suffer osteopenia (lower than normal bone mineral density which is considered a precursor for osteoporosis) secondary to Vitamin D and calcium malabsorption (Johnson 2005).
  • 13.6% suffer Vitamin B2 deficiency leading to headache, depression, confusion, anxiety, photosensitivity and delayed growth (Clements 2006).
  • More than 1 in 2 (56%) suffer potassium deficiency (Halverson 1986) resulting in bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate), cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), confusion, stress and strokes.
  • 69% suffer Vitamin A deficiency (Slater 2004), resulting in night blindness, vision problems, alopecia (hair fall), memory loss and skin rashes.
  • 68% suffer Vitamin K deficiency (Slater 2004), resulting in disturbed coagulation, increased bleeding and a weakened immune responses.
  • 63% suffer Vitamin D deficiency (Slater 2004, Alvarez-Leite 2004), increasing the risk of weakened bones, osteoporosis, neuropathy (numbness and weakness) and arthritis (joint pain and disease).
  • More than 1 in 3 (38%) suffer folate deficiency (Halverson 1986) resulting in anemia which is characterized by extreme fatigue, neurological problems, pale skin, and weakness.
  • More than 1 in 3 (38%) suffer low ferritin levels (Skroubis 2002). This deficiency is asymptomatic and easily correctable.

Macronutrient deficiencies

  • Protein intake drops by 0.5g/kg 1 year post surgery in 15.6% patients, resulting in serious problems such as rhabdomyolysis (destruction of muscle cells), skin rashes, alopecia (hair fall), decreased immunity, increased lethargy, shock and Kwashiorkor (severe protein-energy malnutrition characterized by edema, ulcers and irritability) (Bavaresco 2010, Moize 2003, Xanthakos 2009).
  • Decreased protein intake slows the process of wound healing and causes 7% of deaths post surgery (Agha-Mohammadi 2008).

Unsuccessful Surgeries

7% require re-operation

  • 3 to 7 in 100 patients require reoperation due to complications such as hernia, ulcers, infections, anastomotic leaks, gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage and bowel obstructions (LABS 2009, Chang 2014).

50% regain weight

  • 1 in 2 patients regain significant amounts of weight 2 to 10 years post surgery, and face consequences of multiple nutritional deficiencies (Magro 2008).
  • 2 years after surgery, 20% to 50% of surgeries fail resulting in complete weight regain due to hormonal imbalance (Christou 2006, Magro 2008).
  • Weight regain increased significantly with time after surgery (~15% regained weight within 2 years, 70% regained weight within 2 to 5 years and 85% regained weight after 5 years) (Freire 2012).


  • Of 100 malpractice cases, 32% involved an intraoperative complication (such as a hernia, ulcers, infections, ESRD and kidney stones, anastomotic leaks, embolism, gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage and bowel obstructions) and 72% of malpractice claims required additional surgery (Cottam 2007).
  • The most common adverse patient events initiating litigation were intestinal leaks (53%), intra-abdominal abscesses (33%), bowel obstructions (18%), major airway events (18%), organ injuries (10%), and pulmonary embolisms (8%) (Cottam 2007).
  • In an average of 100 malpractice cases, death resulted in 53% of cases and major disability in 7% (Cottam 2007).


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This research was sponsored by GLOBESITY FOUNDATION (nonprofit organization) and managed by Don Juravin. GLOBESITY Bootcamp for the obese is part of GLOBESITY FOUNDATION which helps obese with 70 to 400 lbs excess fat to adopt a healthy lifestyle and thereby achieve a healthy weight.

Tags: bariatric surgery, complications, long term complications, nutrient deficiencies, unsuccessful surgeries, malpractice

Points For The Public:

  1. 1 in 200 people dies within 1 to 30 days of surgery and 3 in 25 die post-surgery
  2. 1 in 12 suffers life-threatening complications and 74% suffer long term complications
  3. All surgery patients (100%) suffer some sort of deficiencies (hair loss, anemia, mental problems, fatigue, etc.)
  4. 1 in 15 requires re-operation
  5. 50% regain weight and 20% completely regain the pre-operative weight
  6. The surgeries have no benefits for reducing cravings
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