5 Possible Complications of Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Sep 15, 2017 — by Daniel Huacuz, MD

A relatively new technique, gastric sleeve surgery, has skyrocketed in popularity in the last 5 years. It’s safe, proven avoids many of the pitfalls of more invasive procedures such as gastric bypass and it produces similar rapid weight loss effects. With all of this to recommend it’s still important to remember than any surgery poses its fair share of risks, taking the decision to have any surgery should not be taken lightly.

Ideally your physician and surgeon will talk you through the potential side-effects of any technique, but we’ve created this handy reference guide to help you understand gastric sleeve’s possible complications that you might face.

Mortality Rate

As of 2010, a Stanford University based study shows that Gastric Sleeve surgery has an average mortality rate of just 0.8%, which is less than 1 death per 100 surgeries. This is despite the fact, that many patients who undergo this procedure will be severely overweight and will face many pre-existing health conditions.

Staple Line Leaks

Occurring at the rate of 2.1 to 2.4% (about 1 in 100 patients) after gastric sleeve surgery, this is the most serious and common of gastric sleeve’s possible complications. This involves a leak that occurs at the part of the stomach that has been sewn and stapled. This can result in an abnormal connection between the stomach lining and skin known as a fistula and may lead to a persistent infection which could delay your hospital stay by weeks or even months. In worst case scenarios you may need to have a repeat surgery.

Look out for a high fever, racing heart or altered breathing if you are experiencing any of these symptoms post-surgery do contact your surgeon’s office.

Excessive Bleeding

Roughly 1 in 200 patients will face bleeding that to the point that it may require transfusion or reoperation. This may occur during or after surgery and is usually a result of broken blood vessels or injured internal organs.

Blood Clots

These may take the form of clots in your veins or even more threateningly in your lungs. These are usually caused by a lack of mobility that can arise due to the physical effects of surgery. If you notice any redness, swelling, excessive pain, numbness paralysis or discoloration of your arms and legs call your surgeon’s office immediately. Untreated blood clots can result in stroke, heart attack and even death.


Patients with very high BMIs may be unable to properly clean some areas of their wounds which can result in infection. Wound infection occurs in 10 to 15% of gastric sleeve patients, and is a pretty common one of gastric sleeve’s possible complications.

If you’re noticing that the site of an incision is hotter than usual, or that there’s more redness there then you may have an infection. Other possible complications can include fever and rapid heart rate. Infections usually require a treatment of antibiotics and if they persist may require reoperation.


Gallbladder diseases occur in up to 23% of gastric sleeve patients and are usually a result of the rapid weight loss which accompanies the surgery. If you’re experiencing nausea, vomiting, bloating and indigestion go to your nearest ER and inform your surgeon of the complication. In worst case scenarios gallstones may require removal of the gallbladder.

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