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Stomach Pain after Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric Surgery

A common symptom after weight loss surgery is that patients experience stomach pain. Patients have to adhere to lifestyle changes post the surgery and one of them being eating small portions at regular intervals. Irrespective of the type of bariatric operation patients tend to develop abdominal pain after eating too much. Abdominal pain may be due to several reasons.


Common Abdominal Symptoms

    • Feeling Full: Patients tend to feel full after eating a small quantity of food, and eating too much might cause stomach pain. “Feeling of fullness” could also cause nausea.
    • Some patients may also experience watering in the mouth or even the eyes. As time advances these symptoms will reduce.

    These are common symptoms a patient might experience post bariatric surgery. A patient can control these side effects by following the instructions suggested by the dietician and doctor. However, if the symptoms persist and medical condition does not improve over time, the patient should further consult the doctor (bariatric surgeon) in order to avoid complications.
    Extreme Abdominal Symptoms
    Some abdominal symptoms that occur after bariatric surgery can be dangerous and could lead to further complications. Symptoms associated with various types of weight loss surgeries are as below. Consult your doctor immediately if these symptoms persist.

    LAP-BAND Surgery

  • Excessive nausea
  • Inability to drink
  • Gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD is a digestive condition that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach. Patients suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion caused by GERD
    If these symptoms persist it is suggested that the band should be immediately deflated. If the patient’s condition does not improve even after deflation of the band, it indicates that the band may have slipped. A slipped band might require immediate surgery, especially if the patient cannot keep liquids down.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

  • Excessive nausea
  • Inability to keep liquids down & drink liquids
  • Extreme gastro esophageal reflux (GERD)/heartburn
  • Acute progressive stomach pain
  • Pain in the left shoulder

Nausea or the inability to drink liquids indicates a blockage or acute tapering (stricture) of the sleeve. This condition may require an immediate endoscopy. Increased & continuous abdominal pain or left shoulder pain within the first few weeks of the surgery could be because of a late leak or perforation. Such leaks can develop much after the surgery and requires immediate medical attention. In some cases, immediate surgery may be necessary.

Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass

  • Excessive nausea
  • Inability to drink or keep liquids down
  • Acute gastro esophageal reflux (GERD)/heartburn
  • Increased abdominal pain
  • Pain in the left shoulder
  • Severe, burning pain in the abdominal area
  • Vomiting, spasms and bloating

Symptoms such as excessive nausea and the inability to hold liquids down can occur post gastric bypass surgery. Gastric stricture is not uncommon after gastric bypass and results from the size of the opening between the gastric pouch and the intestinal portion attached to it (anastomosis) Endoscopy is the preferred evaluation method to diagnose a gastric stricture. Endoscopic balloon dilatation of the stricture can reduce the symptoms considerably.
The symptom can also indicate an ulcer .Ulcers can be treated using antiulcer medication along with endoscopy/dilatation. If the ulcers cannot be treated through medication, revisional bariatric surgery may be required.

Recurrent nausea, spasms, and abdominal swelling are symptoms that are typically followed by loose stool/diarrhea. Such symptoms indicate an intestinal or bowel blockage. If these symptoms persist immediate medical attention is required.

The Sum & the Substance

Typically patients will want to report these symptoms to their regular physician and not the bariatric surgeon. The general physician may have very little understanding of the side effects of bariatric operations. The consequences could be serious as the general physician might treat these side effects with medications without performing the applicable diagnostic tests.
Patients who have undergone a bariatric surgery, should continue to follow up with the bariatric surgeon particularly when abdominal symptoms are severe and cannot be tolerated.

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