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3 Serious Complications of Sleeve Gastrectomy

Doctors performing surgery in dark room

When you schedule a weight loss surgery, it only makes sense that you’re primarily thinking about the weight you’ll lose. While that is the intended effect, there are certain complications that can lead to potentially life-changing consequences. Before having any surgery, it is important to fully understand the risks; that’s why we need to explore three of the most common and most serious complications after a sleeve gastrectomy.

Thiamine Deficiency

Thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency is common among weight loss patients. Roughly half of all people who have a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass experience this condition. That’s because doctors may remove part of the “duodenum” (the tube connecting your stomach to your intestines). Without the duodenum, your body will not be able to absorb nutrients as efficiently, which can lead to serious health complications.

A thiamine deficiency can manifest as a number of health issues, including weakness of the legs, increased resting pulse, indigestion, and anorexia. Left untreated and undiagnosed, it could worsen into Korsakoff Syndrome or Wernicke's Encephalopathy.

Korsakoff Syndrome

Brain damage is unpredictable. Two people could experience the same amount of thiamine deficiency, and one could develop Wernicke’s encephalopathy while the other develops Korsakoff syndrome.

This is another brain disorder directly stemming from a lack of vitamin B1. Korsakoff syndrome typically manifests as memory impairment but could also cause difficulty walking. In some cases, an advanced case of Korsakoff syndrome can lead to the more traumatic Wernicke's encephalopathy.

Wernicke's Encephalopathy

Extreme, long-term thiamine deficiency can sometimes lead to a kind of brain disorder called “Wernicke's encephalopathy.” This condition is most often characterized by double vision, drooping eyelids, and weakness of the legs. If left untreated and undiagnosed, this condition can lead to permanent and potentially fatal brain damage.

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