Every surgery has some risks, and while gastric sleeve surgery is relatively risk-free, there are certain problems to be aware of. Gastric sleeve leak occurs when digestive juices from the stomach leak out of a hole or seam in the new stomach pouch. When these fluids escape, they can cause significant harm to other organs, muscles, and tissues in the body.
Because of this, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of leakage so you can seek medical assistance quickly if you find yourself in this situation.
Leaks Usually Appear Shortly After Surgery
Gastric bypass surgery is essentially the process of creating a new, smaller stomach pouch from the top of the stomach, and it can help as a weight loss surgery. Complications after bariatric surgery are rare, but they can happen and typically this comes in the form of a gastric leak.
Leak rates for laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy hover just over 1%. Generally, leaks are a breach in the seam of the new stomach pouch, which is a problem that may develop within two to four weeks following surgery and rarely happens more than six weeks later. As a result, if you had gastric sleeve surgery less than a month ago and are experiencing symptoms outlined, you may have a leak.
Signs and Symptoms of a Gastric Leak
Since a gastric sleeve leak causes digestive contents to escape from your stomach, discomfort is one of the most obvious and clear indications of a gastric sleeve leak. Abdominal pain, chest pain, and even shoulder pain are common.
More significantly, the pain will increase with each passing day.
If you have discomfort like this following your gastric sleeve surgery, contact your doctor or surgeon right away, we care greatly about the health of patients and no symptom should be overlooked. This situation can be life threatening.
However, pain isn’t the only indication of a gastric sleeve leak. There are several other warning signs to look out for, such as:
- Fast heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Worsening abdominal pain
Types of Gastrointestinal Leaks
A leak may be characterized based on when it occurs:
- Early Leak: A leak that appears between the first and third days following surgery.
- Intermediate Leak: A leak that develops between days four and seven following surgery.
- Late Leak: Occurs on or after day eight following surgery.
They can also be categorized based on their location or purpose for their development. Some leaks occur as a result of technical complications during surgery, while others occur as a result of patient-related variables in the days after surgery such as:
- Poor nutrition
- Previous or current smoking history
- High blood pressure
- Liver problems
- Renal failure
A leak can either be subclinical or clinical depending on its severity. All of these factors are important since each form of leakage shows its unique set of symptoms and dictates the best course of action for its treatment – an upper endoscopy or a CT scan may be required.
Tips to Avoid a Leak or Other Complications
Is it possible to avoid a leak after gastric sleeve surgery? The majority of preventative measures are the responsibility of the surgeon. However, patients can still take a few easy precautions to avoid a leak following gastric sleeve surgery by:
- Truly Relax After Surgery: During the first several weeks following your operation, you should concentrate on your recovery by giving your body the rest it deserves. Carry no large items and avoid traveling up and down several flights of stairs. Delegate any activities you may have or ask for assistance.
- Follow All Post-Operative Instructions and Diet: Take all the medications prescribed by your surgeon and follow any advice. Stick to liquids for the time period prescribed by your doctor. Eating solids too soon may cause issues for your digestive system.
Most importantly, if you experience any of the symptoms listed above during the first month after surgery, contact us right away. Don’t sit around and wait for these symptoms to worsen. Early detection and treatment can help avoid future significant problems.