When patients ask us about the safety of the gastric sleeve, it is important that we manage expectations properly. While the gastric sleeve is extremely safe within the realm of surgical procedures – the risks are about the same as a routine gallbladder surgery – that is not to say that the procedure is without risk entirely. During your consultation with one of our surgeons, you will learn more about the particular risks of bariatric surgery, the specific risks of gastric sleeve surgery and the risks that you may have due to any underlying medical or general health conditions. Of course, as with any surgical procedure, our goal is to ensure that the benefits of bariatric surgery and gastric sleeve significantly outweigh the possible risks of surgery and anesthesia.
With that out-of-the-way, it is also important that we discuss how to make the gastric sleeve as safe as possible. And again, while all surgeries come with some risk, there are ways to mitigate that risk.
Employ an experienced and skilled surgeon. This is probably the single biggest factor in the safety of a gastric sleeve. An experienced surgeon that has performed hundreds of gastric sleeve procedures has seen it all. If an unforeseeable complication occurs during surgery, it is likely that they will be able to handle it quickly and adeptly. Together, the surgeons at MasJax have performed thousands of bariatric procedures and many more thousands of general surgery procedures. We are, in fact, one of the most experienced groups of surgeons in Northeast Florida.
Take your preoperative testing and dieting seriously. There is a very good reason why we send you for preoperative testing and clearances before you have surgery. We do not want you to experience any undue risk while undergoing the procedure. You will also undergo a preoperative liver shrink diet. This may last anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks and shrinks the size of the liver to help us access the abdominal cavity more easily. There will always be some risks that we cannot predict but taking your preop evaluation process seriously helps us eliminate the most common, predictable and avoidable risks of surgery.
After surgery is also a critical part of the safety of the procedure. Do not be a hero or try to tough it out. If you are having any kind of unusual pain, redness or swelling, or foul discharge from the incision site, let your surgeon know. Do not ignore the pain – in fact, modern minimally invasive techniques have made the gastric sleeve much less painful than ever before. Most patients should not need narcotic medication – Tylenol often suffices. But again, we can’t stress enough, please be sure to contact us if anything does not seem to be progressing smoothly in your immediate recovery. Also, be sure to attend all of your post op check ups – these are very important to ensure that your recovery is progressing properly.
In the several weeks after your surgical procedure, you will be at greater risk for clots in your deep veins – this is known as Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. This is much more likely to occur if you are not active. So be sure to follow your postoperative exercise instructions to keep blood flowing through the veins and minimize the chance of clotting.
The bottom line – if you have any of the signs of a complication, which will be detailed in your postoperative packet, contact your surgeon right away.