Dr Chen Weighs In "How Safe is Bariatric Surgery?"
Advances in bariatric surgery, including DaVinci robotic surgery, have made bariatric surgery one of the safest surgeries performed today. The risk of bariatric surgery is lower or equal to many other popular surgeries, including appendix, gallbladder, hysterectomy, or knee replacement surgery.
Bariatric surgery is safe for many reasons. The main reason is all the planning that goes into bariatric surgery, such as the visits with your surgeon and primary care doctor all done prior to surgery. During these visits, we not only have time to answer your questions regarding surgery, but we also have time to make sure that you are ready for surgery from a medical perspective. Medications can be adjusted, work-up such as upper GIs or EGDs can be performed, anesthesia visits are completed, all to make sure that patients are as optimized as possible prior to surgery.
With a proper work-up, there are few, if any, surprises during and after surgery. Since everything is planned out, bariatric surgery is extremely safe. In addition, advances in technology, including advanced surgical staplers and DaVinci robotic surgery, have made the surgery even safer today than it ever has been. As a surgeon, we can rely upon these tools to place sutures exactly where we need them, and be confident that each staple is perfectly formed, while utilizing advanced imaging to make sure that everything is perfect before the patient even wakes up from anesthesia.
For example, the greatest concern for any surgeon is a staple line leak. In surgeries such as a colon resection, the “accepted” leak rate is about 5%, which is a great target and a very acceptable rate. For bariatric surgery, with all the above advances, the leak rate is not even 1%, but actually 0.1% and perhaps even lower with robotic surgery. There is more risk doing everyday activities than there is from undergoing bariatric surgery.
More importantly, the extensive benefits of bariatric surgery far outweigh the very small risk of the actual surgery. It is for this reason that the guidelines for bariatric surgery have recently changed, making bariatric surgery more available for a greater population of patients. With bariatric surgery, we have an effective, long lasting, and most importantly, safe cure for obesity and its associated comorbidities.