New Jersey Bariatric Center
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Side Effects & Risks

Bariatric surgery is not just another weight loss program. It is surgery, and—as with any surgery— there are side effects and risks.

When deciding if weight loss surgery is the right choice, the risks should be measured against the risks of living with obesity. Studies show that obesity can shorten your lifespan and increase the risk of serious health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, infertility, sleep apnea and even cancer. The New Jersey Bariatric Center© surgical team will assess risk factors through medical history and testing to help you decide your best course of action. Specific side effects and risks of surgery are listed below.
Side Effects and Risks of Bariatric Surgery Doctor Patient
Side Effects
Side effects occur with weight loss surgery mainly because of the amount of weight lost in such a short period of time. Many of these side effects are seen in people who have lost a significant amount of weight without surgery also.
Since your “new” stomach is smaller, it will not be able to hold as much food. If you get full but continue to eat more or eat quickly without chewing thoroughly, chances are an episode of vomiting will result. These habits should change after several episodes of vomiting occur. You will have to relearn your way of eating by eating slower, chewing food well and stopping when you feel full.
Up to one-third of obese patients who have bariatric surgery may develop gallstones. Gallstones are clumps of cholesterol and other matter that form in the gallbladder. During rapid or substantial weight loss, a person’s risk of developing gallstones increases. Additional surgery to remove the gallbladder may be necessary. Some patients may have their gallbladder removed at the time of the obesity surgery if they have gallstones.
Hair loss and thinning is a common side effect that may occur during the first six months after surgery. Although it is alarming, it will not lead to baldness. Once your weight stabilizes, the hair will grow back. Harsh hair treatments, such as straightening and coloring, should be avoided. Be sure to take in an adequate amount of protein and ask your doctor for other recommendations.
Because the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest milk and other dairy products, does not reach food in the usual fashion, bypass and sleeve patients may not be able to fully digest milk. Undigested milk can lead to gas, cramping and diarrhea. If this occurs, you may have to avoid dairy products or switch to lactose-free foods such as milk or cheese products made from soy, almond, rice or coconut. Fortunately, there are many of these products available today.
“Dumping syndrome” is what many bariatric surgeons like to call a “good” side effect because it encourages patients not to eat sweets. Dumping syndrome occurs when high fat, high sugar foods move too quickly through the small intestine, causing nausea, weakness, sweating, faintness and sometimes diarrhea. There can also be an inability to eat sweets without severe weakness and sweating, causing patients to having to lie down until the symptoms pass.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies in gastric bypass patients can be prevented by regularly taking vitamins, minerals and protein supplements, and routinely seeing your primary care physician and a nutritionist to be tested for deficiencies. Women of childbearing age should avoid pregnancy until their weight becomes stable because rapid weight loss and nutritional deficiencies can harm a developing fetus. Most patients are required to take daily multivitamins and calcium with vitamin D. Some patients may require vitamin B12 or iron supplements as well.
Hernias are weaknesses in wounds, and lead to a sometimes painful bulge that can enlarge with time. The risk of a wound hernia occurring is one to two percent with laparoscopic surgery. This is a much lesser risk than when the procedures were done as open surgery, when they would occur in 10 to 20 percent of cases. If a wound hernia occurs, another operation is required to repair it. Typically, surgeons wait one year until maximum weight loss has occurred before repair.
Whether it’s gastric bypass, gastric sleeve or LAP-BAND® the risks of weight loss surgery are comparable to many common procedures such as elective gallbladder or gallstone surgeries. In general, the risks of having abdominal surgery are bleeding, infections, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) / pulmonary embolism, injury to stomach, esophagus or surrounding organs and heart issues.

To learn more about specific risks for your bariatric procedure, click the tab below.
Bowel obstruction
Leak from staple lines
Narrowing of a passage, such as the stoma
Leak from staple lines
Reflux disease
Stenosis - narrowing of a passage
Migration of band
(band erosion or slippage)
Infection/tubing-related complications (tube kinking or leak)
Port site problems
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