Gastric Sleeve Leak – Sleeve Gastrectomy, Potential Complication (Expert’s Guide)

Overview of Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Gastric Sleeve Surgery Leak

Gastric Sleeve Surgery (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy VSG) is the process of surgically altering the size of the stomach by removing 85% of it which leaves by a sleeve-shaped stomach.

This provides less physical holding space for food and makes it harder to eat a great deal of food. This reduction in the area means that you are going to eat less food at one time and should lose weight doing so.

Soon after gastric sleeve surgery, the body will reduce the production of Ghrelin, a hunger hormone that communicates to the brain what you need to eat and how often.

Although gastric sleeve surgery (VSG) promises significant expected weight loss, the procedure does carry potential complications. One of the complications that most patients fear is the possibility of gastric sleeve leak (or leakage) from the staple line.

What is a Gastric Sleeve Leak?

Gastric Sleeve Cutting StaplingA gastric sleeve leak is typically a small seam or hole between staples in the newly formed stomach sleeve. This sleeve leak will usually cause digestive fluids to excrete from within the stomach into the abdominal cavity, exposed to internal organs and tissues.

Sometimes as the gastric contents leak out from the sleeve, a small fluid collection, or abscess, forms next to the sleeve.

Types of Gastric Sleeve Leakage

  • Early Leak – 95% of leaks are discovered within three days (the patient would still be in the care of the Mexico Bariatric Center surgeons if gastric sleeve surgery was performed in Tijuana, Mexico).
  • Delayed Leak – 99% are identified within 30 days post-op (including the 95% early leaks) – meaning 4%-5% of sleeve leakage is experienced after patients return home.

Treatment of Gastric Sleeve Leaking

Treatment of an early leak, diagnosed within the first 3 days after surgery, is generally easier than a delayed leak, diagnosed more than 8 days after surgery.

Those that may have a gastric sleeve leak could experience increased heart rate, an overwhelming sense of anxiety, a fever and a consistently worsening shortness of breath. These signs could indicate that you are experiencing a gastrointestinal leak, and it is important that the patient contacts the surgeon immediately if this is the case.

Making sure that you are getting help right away could mean the difference between successful gastric sleeve surgery and failure. You will want to make sure that you pay close attention to the way that you are feeling in the weeks after the surgery.

What Causes Gastric Sleeve Leaks?

Gastric sleeve staple line leak

Gastric Sleeve Staple Line

Gastric leaks are typically caused by three scenarios:

  • Mechanical misfiring of the stapler device.
  • Stitches or staples may loosen.
  • Damage to the tissue at the staple line.

Symptoms of a Gastric Sleeve Leak

Average Leak Rate for Gastric Sleeve Surgery

  • US National Average: 2.4%
  • Mexico Bariatric Center: 0.5%

How to Avoid Leaks, Lower Risks?

If you experience any of the warning signs listed below, it is recommended that you call your physician. In case you feel dizzy or having difficulty breathing, call 911.

  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Worsening abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • A sense of ill-ease or illness

How Mexico Bariatric Center Treats Leakage?

[blue_box]Can a Gastrointestinal Leak Test Prevent Complications in the Future?

Mexico Bariatric Center Leak Rate: If MBC has 2,000 patients, only 2 or fewer patients may experience a leak. In general, 9-10 out of 10 of the leaks will be discovered and treated before the patient leaves Mexico.  0-1 may have a leak discovered after they return home.
[/blue_box]The quickest, best way to treat a leak is to perform emergency abdominal surgery to seal the leak in the pouch. Another benefit of surgery will typically address any issues that cause concern during surgery.

In general, a Gastric Sleeve Leak is successfully managed with placement of an Endoscopic Stent for 6 weeks. The patient will be on a total parenteral nutrition starting with clear liquid and transitioning to pureed food in 2 months.

How Mexico Bariatric Center Reinforces Staple Line?

Mexico Bariatric Center surgeons dedication to patient care means we take every precaution with our patients.

  • Reinforced Staple Line With Sutures, done after three lines of staples.

How Leak Tests Are Performed

To detect any leaks after surgery, our surgeons perform leak tests.  If a leak is detected, the doctor will treat the leak BEFORE a patient is sent home. 

Mexico Bariatric Center typically presents two leaks tests for all of our gastric sleeve patients.

  • During Surgery: The new stomach pouch is filled with methyl blue dye, and the surgeons observe the stomach from the abdominal cavity ensure no blue color is seen.
  • After Surgery: The day after surgery, patients will be asked to drink a hydrosoluble contrast solution. Then the stomach will be viewed via radiology to ensure the solution does not escape the stomach into the abdominal cavity. Patients are sent home with a copy of these results.

Gastric Sleeve vs. Other Bariatric Surgeries: Complications

Gastric sleeve is a rapid results treatment for most patients and is met with some significant advantages such as a lack of Dumping Syndrome that is common with other types of weight loss surgeries.

Also, the weight loss surgery does not require that you have any foreign body issues, and the weight loss is more natural. Your body will stop requiring that you eat more to become full so you will use only what you have for nutrients and will not store very much.

Compared to other bariatric surgeries, gastric sleeve potential risks are minimal compared with other surgery types.

Contact Our Staff Today

While a gastric sleeve can help those in need of weight loss to accomplish their goals, there are some potential complications such as a gastric sleeve leak that can cause problems with the recovery process. These difficulties need to be dealt with immediately to avoid more damage.

There are several symptoms that you can relate to gastric sleeve leaks, and you will want to make sure that you talk to your surgeon about them before you agree to the surgery.

Contact our helpful, patient care coordinators today to learn more about the potential risks and complications following gastric sleeve surgery.

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