Potential Side Effects of Duodenal Switch Surgery

The Duodenal Switch procedure is a weight loss surgery in which your surgeon will remove a large part of your stomach and reroute your small intestine, so that you'll not only eat less following the surgery, but you'll absorb fewer calories from the food you do eat. The Duodenal Switch leads to rapid weight loss in the months following surgery, but it's a major surgery that carries a number of risks and side effects.

The Duodenal Switch Procedure Explained

The Duodenal Switch combines both restrictive and malabsorptive components to promote rapid weight loss. The restrictive component of the surgery involves removing 75 to 85% of the stomach, along the greater curvature, to restrict the amount of food you're able to consume. Your surgeon creates the malabsorptive component when he reroutes the small intestine, leaving only 18 to 24 inches that are capable of absorbing nutrients from the food you eat.

The Duodenal Switch procedure leaves the pyloric valve, which regulates the passage of stomach contents into the small intestine, intact. It also leaves a portion of the duodenum, or upper section of the small intestine, intact.

Short Term Risks of the Duodenal Switch Procedure

All surgeries carry both short and long term risks and side effects. In the period immediately following surgery, you may experience bleeding, blood loss and blood clots. Swelling in the stomach and small intestines may make consuming your post-op liquid diet difficult, and you may need to be readmitted to the hospital and kept on an IV drip until the swelling does down. You'll run the risk of infection, and you'll also run the risk of leakage if any of the stitches in your stomach or small intestine should tear.

In rare cases, Duodenal Switch patients have died as a result of surgical complications.

Long Term Risks of the Duodenal Procedure

In the long term, one of your primary risks is that of nutritional deficiency. Because the Duodenal Switch procedure reduces your body's ability to absorb nutrients, you'll have to take vitamin supplements every day for the rest of your life. You'll need vitamins A and D, as well as calcium, iron and potassium. You'll also need to eat more protein than the average person; doctors recommend Duodenal Switch patients consume 90 grams of protein per day.

Nutritional deficiency can lead to a number of health problems. You'll be at higher risk for osteoporosis, due to your body's reduced ability to absorb calcium and vitamin A. You may experience night blindness due to a vitamin A deficiency.

Because the Duodenal Switch procedure impairs the normal digestive process, you may experience chronic diarrhea. Patients report having diarrhea several times per day. Your stools may carry a foul odor, and you may experience frequent gas.

Because the Duodenal Switch procedure doesn't impair your body's ability to absorb carbs, if you don't eat a healthy diet following the procedure, it's possible to experience little weight loss or to experience weight regain.

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