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Peer-reviewed study: 5-10% of patients develop neurologic injuries after bariatric surgery

Weight loss surgeries help many patients achieve a healthy lifestyle, but good follow-up care is a must

A peer reviewed study by bariatric surgeons found that 5–10% of patients have neurologic complications after bariatric weight loss surgery.

Instead of nerve injuries occurring during surgery itself, though, bariatric neurologic problems almost always are related to nutritional deficits.

2 common ways nutritional problems develop after bariatric weight loss surgery

Protracted vomiting. Some degree of nausea and vomiting is expected after surgery, but when it is prolonged, the person can’t keep down adequate nutrients. Even if a patient follows surgeon or physician counseling to take oral supplements, it’s often not enough to offset what’s lost to intractable vomiting.

Malabsorption. Some bariatric procedures, such as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, deliberately re-route or bypass the gastrointestinal tract past 80%+ of the bowels. This is designed to reduce the amount of calories absorbed from food and drinks that are ingested.

Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency

One of the most dreaded in notorious nutritional deficits that plagues many bariatric patients is Vitamin B1, or thiamine, deficiency.

It’s amazing to see how important some individual nutrients are to the way our bodies function. Vitamin B1 is no exception. It plays a role in glucose (sugar) metabolism, oxygen delivery by red blood cells, heart function, neurotransmitter function, and the health of nerve cells or neurons.

Some of the common signs of Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency include swelling (edema), difficulty breathing, weakness, and an unusual gait (manner of walking). Bariatric surgeons and medical experts have also found that the thiamine deficiency after surgery can be triggered by an infection or sepsis.

Peripheral neuropathy

Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficits can be reversed if they’re caught in time. When they aren’t, though, the patient can be left with permanent neurologic problems. The most common type of neurologic complication caused by this post-bariatric surgery nutritional deficiency is peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is a catch-all diagnosis for nerve damage outside the brain and spinal cord. These are called peripheral nerves, and when they are injured they cause symptoms including numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain. The most common areas affected are the hands and feet.

When peripheral neuropathy is caused by bariatric surgery, there’s a special name for it, bariatric beriberi.

Follow-up is key

Many people have found bariatric weight loss surgery to be helpful when, despite their best efforts, other methods of diet and exercise have not worked to keep excess weight off. It’s important to remember, though, that appropriate surgical and medical follow-up after surgery is important. Neurologic injuries from nutritional deficiencies after bariatric surgery can occur months to many years after an operation. For some patients, taking oral supplements won’t be enough, and that’s where the expertise of a weight loss surgeon or physician is so valuable.

Unfortunately, some bariatric weight loss practices don’t give adequate education for good follow-up instructions to patients. This can result in serious problems, including neurologic injuries.

If you’ve been seriously injured in Texas because of poor bariatric weight loss care, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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