Sunday, January 13, 2008

List of WLS complications

I recently found a group for people who have survived the complications of WLS and joined it. One of the emails I got today was the following list of complications:

Dehydration, Chronic Vomiting and Nausea, Stroke, Heart Attack,
Arrythmia, Kidney stones, Kidney Failure, Liver Failure, Anemia, Deficiencies (B-12,potassium, iron, B-1, B-6, etc.), Malabsorbtion of supplements
(calcium, minerals, nutrients from food), Blurred Vision, Muscle and
Bone Pain, Loss of Teeth, Bleeding Gums, Rotting Teeth Due to
Vomiting Requiring Root Canals, Hypoglycemia, Headaches, Black
outs/Seizures, Lactose Intolorant, Injury to Spleen during surgery,
Coma, Paralysis/Blindness after coma, Osteoporsis, Burst Pouch,
Lupus, Auto-Immune Disease, Looped Intestines, Ruptured Esophagus
from vomiting, Misfired Staper during surgery, Ulcers, Pneumonia/Lung
Problems, Arthritis, Weakness and Fatigue from Malnutrition, Overall
Pain, Metabolic Bone Disease, Food Blocking Stoma Causing Severe
Pain, Stoma Needing Stretched Repeatedly, Neuropathy, Beri Beri, Put
on Feeding Tubes/PICC Lines, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue,
Fistulas, Atrophy of Muscles, Hair Loss, Hernias, Blood Clots, Leaks,

Peritonitis, Heart Burn/Gerd/Acid Reflux, Bowel Obstructions,
Gallstones and Gallbladder Removal, Severe Depression, Anxiety, Loss
of Memory, Poor Concentration, Irregular Blood Pressure, Diahhrea,
Constipation, Opening Of Outer Incision-Needing Packing Until Healed
From The Inside Out, Insomnia/Sleep Disorders, Unforced Anorexia and
Bulemia, Gas, Silent Stroke, Vertigo, Malnutrition which is the caus
of many of the above problems, Many End Up Becoming Invalids, and
then there is death.

When I had my WLS 10 years ago, guess how many of these I was told about. Have you guessed it yet? NONE!!!!! Yeah, I was told about vomiting, but not that it could end up being a chronic thing (vomiting would happen only when I ate more than my itty bitty mutilated stomach could hold, or if what I ate wasn't chewed well enough). RIIIGHT...........lie to me some more, asshats.
I can guarantee you that if I had known ANY of these were possible complications, I might have had a lot of reservations about the surgery. I might not have had it, especially since the muscle and bone pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathy were things I already had BEFORE the WLS (and how much were they aggravated by having it?). Now I also have explosive diarhhea, depending on what I eat (if it's got milk in it, or it's fast food, I had better be right on top of a bathroom or I'll be taking a shower and changing clothes).
Unfortunately, it wasn't until about 8 months after I had the surgery (and was figuring out that it hadn't worked as advertised...duh!), that I got a computer and found the internet. And it was a couple of years before I got comfortable researching online, but by then, my WLS had failed, I was fatter than ever, and I didn't bother to check into all the problems I could be having because of it. I figured it had happened, I was at least smart enough to tell the doctor who wanted me to have it done again to fuck off, no way were they getting another chance to fuck me up even more than they already had, so why bother.
Then this last summer, after I got married and didn't have to work anymore, I had more online time than I've ever had and found FA. The more I learn from y'all, the madder I get at all the asshats who think that any risk(s) you have to take to get thin are worth it, just to be thin. Hindsight is definitely 20/20, and if I had known then what I know now, I'd have found other ways to deal with the arthritis in my knee (gee...why didn't my then-doctor recommend cortisone shots? 10 years of pain because she said it was my fucking fat making an arthritic knee hurt......what a fucking bitch she was). I'd have found other ways to deal with the back pain I have (and I'm thinking that the problems with my knee were contributing to the back thing). Ever since I got that cortisone shot, I've been able to walk through Wal-Mart for shopping instead of taking the electric you know how amazing that is for me? Yeah, I still have back pain if I have to stand still for any length of time, but I don't have much back pain when I'm walking, and for me, that is something totally new and different (and I love it, when the weather gets nicer, I'm going to try a walking regimen and see how it works). But of course, a lot of doctors tell you to just ignore the pain and exercise anyway. Yeah, doc, I'll do that when you're in just as much pain as I am and you exercise (and I can guarantee you that the pain I rate as 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being worst, would be about a 15 or 20 on your scale). It's amazing how much pain you can tolerate when you have it every fucking day and no one will listen to you or give you anything for it (other than tylenol or ibuprofen or naproxen, which quit working if you take them all the damned time).
Sorry this has devolved into a rant, but it just makes me so freaking mad that doctors refuse to fully inform us of ALL the possible consequences, just because they are so focused on "fat is unhealthy, thin is healthy, no matter what".


  1. I had SX in 2004, and the list of complications wasn't that long then, either. The issues I've had since surgery are more involved than was discussed with me pre-op. But, such is life.

  2. Ranting can be very good for you. :) And you did it so well, too! Good for you.

    Stories like yours and finding the fat acceptance community have made me wonder if it wasn't some kind of divine providence that made my insurance stop paying for bariatric surgery just before I started getting desperate enough to look into it. Over time, I realized that it wouldn't have been a good choice for me anyway. (Mostly because it's a bad choice for everyone as I now know)

    Thank you for your strength and your inspiration.

  3. I love your rants!! I am so glad the information is out there now about the cons of WLS, otherwise I would have probably been one of those who went through the surgery (as an aside, my 26 pants didn't fit last night, waaahhh!). I'm getting fatter but on Friday during my interviews I decided to walk instead of taking the bus to the next interview and felt awesome about myself.

    I wish you lived in Chicago, if anything to meet you at the big meet up in February, I think you're the greatest!!!! Hugs!!!

  4. melting mama - I think the longer they do WLS, the more complications they're going to find, and the less worthwhile this kind of thing will be.

    jamie fritz - That's one of the main reasons I blog, is to get the word out there that WLS isn't the magic bullet that the medical community would have us believe.

    michelle - if things go well for us financially, we'll be in Chicago this June. DH has a ship's reunion then and we're hoping we can afford to go. A lot depends on refinancing the house, and how much it's going to cost to get the roof re-shingled. I would love to be able to make it to the meeting in Feb, but money just won't allow that yet...dammitall.

  5. You keep tellin' 'em, Mariellen. What you're doing is so important, because in the Paid Media, this stuff keeps getting whitewashed, and it drives me mad.

  6. meowser - it drives me mad too, which is why I keep on about it as much as I can. I don't want to see anyone end up with those kinds of complications, and I sure as hell don't want to see anyone else die.

  7. Like the other comments say, rant on! I enjoy reading it and ranting myself. Let me apologize if I was insensitive when I mentioned that WLS seems to be a magic bullet for many people - I didn't realize you'd been through it. It's true, though, that WLS has scared the heck out of me from the first time I started hearing about it. The more I learned about it, the more it freaked me out. At this point I just wish it were banned as the deadly experiment it is. Yeah, dream on - it's more popular and common than ever, tragically.

    Can I ask if the doctors even bothered to inform you that there was a risk of dying from the surgery itself? I thought they *had* to do that with any surgery.

    This part especially stands out - "Malabsorbtion of supplements
    (calcium, minerals, nutrients from food." A few years or so ago I saw a doctor instructing a class full of fat people who were going to get the surgery on how the surgery "works." He specifically said that it worked two ways - first, through minimizing food intake, and second, through malabsorption. That neither was effective alone, but together they "work." Malabsorption - a *purposeful* effect of the surgery (that's why they bypass some of the intestine.) How is it that they don't actually *tell* people that that means they will - WILL - be malnourished for the rest of their lives if the surgery doesn't fail? How can *doctors* purposely, with full intent, induce anything that starts with MAL- for God's sake? Mal - it means sick in French. As an English prefix it means "bad, abnormal" or sick. They're supposed to *fix* things that are mal- not purposely cause them! So not only are they not informing people of *side effects*, they are not even informing them of the *intended effects* - at least not in any meaningful way.

    By the way, the woman the show was about had had WLS by that doctor, and while a lot of weight came off, she was now unable to engage in comfort eating so she started down the road of alcoholism and drug addiction instead. I read somewhere (and Oprah said too - who I never watch, but did one day when she talked about WLS) that the number of women who have WLS who then become alcoholics and drug abusers is actually very high - it was either 1/3 or 1/2. I don't know how true it is, but it makes perfect sense for a lot of reasons. I wonder how much we're not hearing about *that* "side effect" of WLS.


  8. Annie - The doctors mentioned the risk of dying, but in exactly the same way as they mention the risk of dying from any other surgery (and I think the risks of dying from most other types of surgery are probably a hell of a lot less than 1 to 2%). So I think they downplay that risk especially. It's like, yeah, there's a risk of death from this surgery, but that risk exists no matter what kind of surgery you have.
    If you want to read about my experience with WLS, Kate asked me to guest post about it on Shapely Prose a couple of months ago, so it's probably in her archives (she had me post right after Heidi made her guest post about her decision to have WLS).
    See, I was really stupid when I had mine, because mine was done the month after my best friend died from her WLS (the same VBG I was having done, and hers had been done a second time). We were told at the time that her cause of death was myocarditis, and there were no secondary findings, that I know of. Now, after having found FA, I'm thinking that the mycarditis could have been a complication of the VBG.
    From what I was told, none of the intestines are bypassed in the VBG, all they do is staple your stomach so you can't eat more than 4 oz at a time (and they put a dime-sized ring at the bottom of that pouch where it empties into the intestines so that if you don't eat mashed/pureed foods or chew every bite until it's mashed, you're going to upchuck). The reasons people regain weight with that one so quickly are that the pouch stretches out really easily and/or the stapling comes undone early on. I'm not sure, but I don't think they do a lot of those anymore, it's more the RNY that is being pushed now (the doctor who evaluated me for my SSDI claim suggested it, another one of those lose-weight-and-all-your-problems-will-magically-disappear doctors. Told him thanks, but no thanks, they didn't manage to kill me the first time around, I wasn't giving them another chance to do that).

  9. I don't know of any surgery except this one that has such a high death rate. In fact I was horrified the first time I heard that it was 2 per cent. I had surgery on my foot some years ago, and there was a 15% risk of some internal scarring that could be painful - that was an enormous percentage, but the risk was not a horrible one, and it seemed to outweigh the pain I was already in. The risk of death, however, was nowhere near that of bariatric surgery. I don't remember what the risk of death is from X or Y surgery - actually typing in risk of death surgery on Google turns up all bariatric surgery results - but I can't imagine any other elective surgery having a 2 out of every 100 die and being touted from the rooftops by every doctor and news outlet. But we're a country obsessed with surgery, from C-sections to spinal tampering, so what else is new.

    I looked up the RNY thing (wasn't familiar with that term) and it says they leave only a one ounce pouch, and that it works through restriction of food intake and malabsorption of food. Deliberate malnutrition. Like you say, just reducing the stomach size isn't enough - that can be stretched out fairly easily - so now they rely on malabsorption, which is unconscionable, IMO.

    I don't doubt for a minute that your poor friend's heart problem was a result, somehow, of the surgery. But I don't think you were stupid - what real way did you have of knowing? My kneejerk reaction to it was always "Omg, that can NOT be good" but I only had a basic layman's knowledge of physiology, nothing to go on like we do now. What's scary is that the more we know of how bad it is, empirically, the more it's being done and the easier it's becoming to get it done. If it gets much worse, it will start to feel closer to a type of genocide, and I sure don't want to think about that. :(

  10. Annie - Another thing that scares me about it is that now doctors are thinking about recommending it for diabetic patients (whether they 'need' to lose weight or not) because some fat diabetics who've had it have had their blood sugar normalize after WLS and don't need their meds anymore. I read this on the diabetic list I belong to and I'm just waiting for DH's doctor to suggest it to him since she's all gung-ho on the weight loss and calories in/calories out bullshit bandwagon. The doctors who are looking at this for all diabetics don't know if this side effect lasts, but hey, if it gets a fattie thinner and cures his diabetes too, it's a money-maker for them. ASSHATS of the highest order there.
    And I've had that genocide feeling for quite a while now about WLS. It's like they think fat people are ugly, worthless, whatever stereotype you can come up with, so if the surgery doesn't make them thin, but it kills them, all well and good. Either way, they don't have to look at us (we're either thinner or we're dead). Yeah, that's a cynical, pessimistic outlook, but JMAJ, the fat hatred out there just doesn't give me much reason to be optimistic sometimes.

  11. I understand that, vesta, and it's mighty depressing. Just remember all the positive, fat-loving people in your life when it gets depressing. They don't want you thin or dead, that's for sure. I can never think about this without remembering a friend of ours - his wife is one of the two people I know who had the surgery, and she started losing lots of weight. He was outright dismayed by it - he liked her fat, and he liked her just fine; he was afraid she would get really thin. I don't know what became of her; she was still in the process of losing weight last time I saw them. Anyway, I know he's not the only one.

    I do have one question for you if you don't mind and then I'll shut up - you mention the calories in/calories out thing. I was wondering, aside from the fact that most people don't keep off the weight, or that their bodies react as though they are starving when they do it, so they have to stay in a state of starvation to keep the weight off, is there no truth to the fact that calories out = more than calories in results in weight loss? Or are you just saying that the results of living that way are bad and not worth it?

  12. Annie - this is just from personal experience with restricting calories. The last time I went on diet, I was eating 1200 calories a day, lost 50 lbs, and plateaued. Dr said to go down to 1000, and I lost another 20 lbs, plateaued. She said to go down to 800 calories a day. By then, I was tired all the time, had headaches every day that massive amounts of OTC painkillers didn't get rid of, and felt like shit. I was exercising along with the calorie restriction, but in order to keep losing to hit the doctor's goal of 145, I would have had to quit eating altogether (I've never been 145 as an adult, even when I was not eating much and roller skating 4 hours a night 3 night a week, walking everywhere because I didn't own a car, and when I wasn't walking, I was riding my bicycle). As soon as I went back to eating 2000 calories a day, I started gaining back what I had lost, and more. That happened every time I tried restricting calories, didn't matter how much or how little I exercised, I would lose just so much weight, and then plateau. I even tried staying at 1200 calories a day after I plateaued, and I started gaining weight. So I said to hell with diets, I'm tired of starving myself, I'm obviously meant to be fat since I've screwed up my metabolism with all the dieting I've done (I wasn't fat when I was a kid, a teenager, or a young adult, you can see that from the photo slide show on here). I got fat when I got pregnant, and then the dieting started and the rest is history. So when I hear the "eat less/move more" mantra, I know that for me, it doesn't work, never has worked, and probably never will work. I know I'm not unique in this, that it's probably true for a lot of other women.
    For me personally, I refuse to live in a perpetual state of starvation to try and meet an impossible ideal. I know that if I ever got thin, there would be a ton of other imperfections to obsess about, and I just don't have the time or energy to dwell on that kind of crap anymore. It's taken me a lot of years and a lot of hard work to get to a point where I can say I like myself as a person. Now I'm working on liking my body as it is, and not caring that I don't meet society's ideal of thin, blond, tanned, toned, and conventionally beautiful. So yeah, I guess the results of perpetual dieting just aren't worth it. Losing, gaining, losing, gaining, it's harder on my health than if I'd never been there done that.

  13. All I really can say is, damn!!! About that list of complications. I mean geeze, if that isn't proof that WLS is little more than medical exeperimentation, then I don't know what is.

  14. Thanks, Vesta. Sounds a lot like my own experiences. I stopped worrying whatsoever about my weight when I got really sick and debilitated. In fact, I get mad when I hear someone saying "It's impossible to gain weight if you're eating X amount" because I most certainly did pack on pounds and all I was eating was about 2 to 3 bites of food per day. Calories in/calories out means jack when you have a severe, deadly, undiagnosed endocrine problem. Pfft. And it seems to mean jack anyway. Good for you for accepting yourself - I'm way on board with that. Thanks for taking your time out to talk to me :)

    Violet - I totally agree!

  15. When I started researching gastric bypass three years ago, the first site I came across was stories of all the shit that could go horribly wrong.

    I took that as a sign. Not for everyone, but for me personally. As in, I'm fat but otherwise disgustingly healthy, so perhaps this is not the best idea.

    I did do some diet/exercise shit after that, which of course ended up much as one would expect. When I quit going to the gym for 2 hours at least 5 days a week and actually ate food I liked, those 50 pounds came right back.

  16. Oh, but I was just told how WLS has SO many success stories of people losing weight and keeping it off!

    So, do these people just outright ignore the risks in favor of outcomes they find acceptable to their prejudices against people being fat?

  17. Wow, this really is a powerful highlight of the many dangers of WLS, isn't it? Very sobering information.

  18. I just had my first call from the hospital saying that I will have my first meeting for WLS in February... I'm sick of being fat guys, I know that there are a lot of risks, and yes, it's scary, but I feel so bad about my weight, it controls me, I can't go anywhere without feeling that people are looking and talking about my weight, and trust me some really do. I'm in a jail; my body. I have concluded that regardless, I want this surgery, it is worth regaining my life back. I know that most of you had horrible experiences...any advice? Which surgery would you get if you could redo it and why? I'm thinking of the larascopic gastric bypass... Melting Mama, in one of your videos on utube, you mentionned the band? Why? Is it because it is irreversible and would that eliminate many of those complications listed?

  19. Hi,new blogger here. Currently 340 lbs, female, 26 years of age. I'm testing to see if you can get my comments, I just wrote one and can't see it, bare with me for a little while please..

  20. Noah - your comments don't show up until I clear them (I have comment moderation enabled so I can delete troll comments and no one has to deal with them but me).
    As for gastric bypass, all of those complications listed in my post up above can apply to that. Do you really want to deal with any/some/all of that just to lose weight for a short period of time? And believe me when I tell you it will be a short period of time that your weight loss lasts.
    When you go in for your consult, and you get to talk to people who have had the surgery, you won't be talking to people who have had it for 5, 10, or 15 years. You'll be talking to people who are still in the honeymoon stage, have just lost all the weight they wanted to lose, don't have any complications yet, and haven't yet started to gain any weight back. And believe me when I say that surgeons are very careful about who they pick to talk to prospective patients - they aren't going to pick anyone who has any kind of problem, has gained any weight, or is willing to talk about the down side of WLS.
    For me personally, there is no way in hell I would ever have this surgery done again - and it's been offered. I'd rather be fat and healthy and tell the rest of the world to eat shit and bark at the moon than risk my life and health just to be thin. Of course, I have 31 more years of dealing with peoples' attitudes than you do, and that ability to tell people to fuck off comes with age, I think. It also helps a lot that my husband also supports me and says "Who the hell cares what other people think, I like you just the way you are."
    My advice is to eat as healthfully as you can afford, move your body in ways that you enjoy, love yourself, and to hell with the haters. WLS isn't the solution that surgeons are touting it to be - everyone who has died from it, and everyone who has debilitating complications would tell you that.

  21. Logically, I know I should tell everyone to fuck off, it's true, but it's hard to apply that to my life right now. This past month since the doc recommended me for WLS I've been feeling depressed about my weight, I've never felt this down EVER, maybe it also has to do with having my son a couple of months ago, the baby blues maybe? It looks like WLS is not the answer. What is? I think maybe counselling and talking to people that are bigger too. I need to accept myself. Like you said, maybe in a couple of years it will be easier. I'm just scared of dying of a heart attack one day like my dad did and am trying to outweigh the situation. Either I live till 35 and die of a heart attack or 60 and beyond, miserably, with that list of complications. I have to be honest with you, this surgery is so tempting, losing all my weight in a little over a year; my dream since I was a kid and the dream that never got realized regardless the attempts. I was NEVER thin, I feel like I have been deprived of a lot of things. I never went on a plane because I don't want to purchase two seats, I would be humiliated, I spend so much on clothes, so I hardly get new ones, and now with the birth of my son, I fear I will lose that too, I want to be around for him. Do you have any suggestions that might work? I've never tried Weight Watchers, do you think that would help? I've reached my low now, and am feeling VERY depressed about my weight and am unable to enjoy other things in my life cause it's always on my mind, I NEED to do something, but I do appreciate your advice. There's no one better to talk to about WLS than someone who actually went through it and has had complications. I'm seriously second guessing this surgery, especially when you told me about the docs preselecting who they makes sense. Also, it does make sense that this WLS would cause complications: it seems as if docs are taking advantage of the fact that people are unhappy being overweight and scared of dying because of it and making a fortune not only with the surgery but with all the hospital costs afterwards associated with it from the complications. Kinda makes me paranoid about the whole situation. Sure, my dad died of a heart attack, but he also smoked as well, something I don't do, was a male, was a different person, etc. My aunt, my father's sister, same genes as him, is a bigger woman and is still alive, in fact she was the biggest one out of 4 children and she's past 60 for sure now. I'm sorry for the long blog but it's really helping me just get everything out. Thanks.

  22. I gained weight after I had my first baby, and lost it when I got hit by a car and spent 2 weeks in a hospital plus another 6 weeks in a nursing home (not something I When I got pregnant with my son, I really gained a lot of weight, and couldn't lose it permanently. I dieted off and on from the time I was 18 until I was 30, did phen-fen for 6 mos when I was 42 (till they took it off the market), and had a VBG when I was 43. After figuring out that all of that failed and that I couldn't keep the weight off forever even though I was really good at losing it, I gave up on dieting.
    I still hated my body, hated shopping for clothes, etc. Then I found the fatosphere and size acceptance. I already was of the opinion that if people didn't like looking at my fat ass, then they could look elsewhere. I still have days where I don't like my body much, but I'm working on that. I still don't like shopping for clothes, but that's because I don't really shopping of any I shop the clearance racks and sales so I don't have to spend on a lot on my clothes, but that's just me. Check out LiveJournal for the fatshionista community, they have a lot of bloggers who talk about fashion and they have clothing swaps/sales/etc too.
    I've flown on a plane and didn't have to buy two seats (and that was when I weighed 350 lbs, at 5' 8"). I flew Northwest Airlines to NYC from MN, no problems at all (did need the seat belt extender, but the flight attendant got me that without any fanfare at all).
    The depression could be post-partum blues after having a baby. Counseling could help, as long as you can find a therapist who isn't fat-phobic.
    Most of the women in my family were around my size (my grandmothers/aunts) and they all lived well into their 80s, so that's another reason I'm not worried about my weight being the cause of my death (getting hit by a car is more likely, been there done that already and survived that).
    Everything I've read on the blogs I read in the fatosphere says that eating as healthfully as you can and exercising in ways you like is better for you than dieting - mainly because if you don't diet for the rest of your life, and exercise like a hamster on speed, you'll just gain back what you lost and then some. Stress doesn't help matters any either, so if you can find some way to lessen the stress in your life, that will help too.
    If you need to talk more, you can email me - vesta44 @ gmail dot com

  23. Thank you so much for all of your help. I don't feel that alone anymore. I'll definetly email you and keep in touch.:)


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