As with any other weight loss surgery, there are always potential complications associated with Duodenal switch surgery. Because the procedure is one of the most complex surgery options, there is an increased rate of complications associated with having it. Just like all bariatric surgeries, patients who had higher BMIs entering surgery were at a higher risk of having complications during or after surgery.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Perhaps the most common complication of duodenal switch surgery, this occurs because, during the surgery, malabsorptive techniques are used in order to help a patient lose weight. Because the body is not absorbing the same amount of food before (this means nutrients too), many will experience basic vitamin deficiencies. Some of these vital vitamins include Iron, Calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. A doctor will prescribe a multivitamin and other supplements in order to get the body back on track and working its best.

According to John Hopkins Hospital, nearly 18% of people who have duodenal switch surgery develop some type of protein-energy malnutrition. If this condition becomes severe, also known as kwashiorkor, it can be potentially life-threatening. A thiamine deficiency is also common, known as beriberi, which can permanently damage the nervous system if left untreated. This makes post-op visits with a doctor and a nutritionist vital to one’s overall health.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD

This condition occurs when acid from the stomach starts to back up into the esophagus, which causes a burning sensation or heartburn. Many patients experience GERD-like symptoms before surgery and many do after surgery because of the rerouting of the stomach. Oftentimes excess gas is caused by eating too many carbohydrates or certain types. Also, diarrhea can occur if a patient is eating too many fats.

Bowel Changes

Many patients experience frequent and loose bowel movements multiple times of the day. They also experience foul-smelling gas and frequent flatulence. This is often changed by watching the diet and learning which trigger foods cause these symptoms in a patient. This can also be caused by lactose intolerance.

Blood Clots or Leaks

Any surgery that involves stitches in the stomach or intestines runs the risk of leaks. Bleeding or blood clots also is a potential risk or complication.

Liver or Spleen Injury

During an intense procedure such as duodenal switch surgery, the liver or spleen could be injured. In extreme cases, the spleen has to be removed entirely.

Other potential complications

During surgery, bleeding, blood transfusion or organ damage can occur. Immediately post-op, a patient can experience infection, abscess, bowel obstruction, bowel perforation, pancreatitis or pneumonia. Long-term complications include hernia, anemia, osteoporosis, kidney stones, diarrhea and bowel obstruction.

It’s important to understand that no weight loss surgery, especially not duodenal switch surgery, should be considered a quick fix to losing weight. It is imperative that patients follow a healthy lifestyle post-op to ensure an improved quality of life and overall health improvement.