Sami Harik did not think it was an accident that he was seeing neurological problems in patients who had had gastric bypass surgery.
Harik, chair of the department of neurology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, got some flak when he told a patient who'd had the weight-reduction procedure that her neurological symptoms were being caused by a vitamin deficiency brought on by the surgery. The patient reported what Harik said to her surgeon, and the surgeon sent Harik a “frosty letter,” challenging Harik to produce data.
This does not surprise me at all. From everything I've learned on the OSSG-gone_wrong group, most WLS surgeons refuse to acknowledge that any complications patients get are from the surgery (and if they do acknowledge complications, they say those complications aren't nearly as bad as what can happen to a patient if said patient stays fat). They want proof, but a lot of them don't do any follow-up for more than 6 months or a year with any of their patients (and if you have problems, they'll refuse to treat you).
Now, Harik and colleagues in the neurology department, including lead investigator Dr. Katalin Juhasz-Pocsine, have published a study based on patients who've been treated by the department for the last 10 years. The results, reported in the May 22 issue of the medical journal “Neurology”: Of the 150 patients who'd had the Roux-en-Y bypass surgery before being treated at UAMS' Neurology Clinic, the symptoms in 26 patients could be directly linked to the surgery.
26 out of 150 patients - that's 17% with neurological complications from WLS. That is not a number that is part of the "informed consent", and that's not a risk I would be willing to take (my VBG just shrank the size of my stomach, it didn't bypass any of my intestines).
It started, for Poscine, with a patient in her 30s who came in complaining of tingling in her feet. Poscine ruled out diabetes, which can cause neuropathy in the limbs. Poscine determined she was deficient in vitamin B12 and iron, and began giving her patient IV nutritional supplements and making sure that she was eating. But the patient declined; three months after her first visit, she could no longer walk and, bedridden, required complete care. Her body could not absorb what it needed to repair the problems.
Poscine persuaded the patient to agree to a partial reversal of her bariatric surgery. A section of bowl that had been bypassed was rejoined to the stomach so that more nutrients could be absorbed.
In three more months, she could get out of bed. A year out, she can walk again and is much improved.
This patient was lucky, not all reversals are that successful and show results that dramatic. Bariatric surgeons know that these surgeries can cause nutritional deficits, and supposedly tell their patients what vitamins and how much of them to take, and that they will have to take them for the rest of their lives. What they don't tell them is that all the vitamins recommended sometimes aren't enough and that the lab values that are considered normal for anyone who hasn't had WLS are not normal for someone who has had WLS and those "normal" values can, in fact, be dangerously low for them (and those patients don't find this out until they start having problems). Why do bariatric surgeons not know their patients are having these problems? Because these problems don't always show up right away. Sometimes they don't show up for years (5, 10, 15, or 20 years down the road) and these surgeons don't follow WLS patients for nearly that long.
“We are not saying patients should not get the surgery,” Poscine said, but that they need individualized supplementation and careful, lifetime follow-up. Harik estimated the percentage of bariatric patients who get into trouble as less than five percent of the population.
WLS patients need individualized supplementation and careful, lifetime follow-up all right and I can guarantee you that their surgeons aren't going to do that follow-up and they aren't going to refer patients to doctors who can, and will, do that kind of intense follow-up because if they have to tell patients this before they have the WLS, they just might have second thoughts about having this surgery.
What the WLS surgeons don't tell their patients is that most vitamins and supplements that they need to take don't always work if taken orally (surgically induced malabsorption doesn't just keep calories from being absorbed, ya know?), and that a lot of what they need to take will have to be done as injections or given by IV.
Still, bariatric surgery is growing exponentially, Poscine said, and doctors need to be vigilant to make sure their patients with intentionally compromised digestion get immediate treatment of neurological problems. She is particularly concerned that bariatric surgeons take to heart the results of the study, since, she said, few follow their patients over a long period — and many don't believe the study's premise anyway.
And this is the major problem with WLS - too many surgeons don't believe that the problems their patients are having are a result of their mutilated digestive tracts because they don't have to follow their patients long-term. After all, how much money can you make if you can't spend all your time in surgery? If you have to spend half of your time with follow-up care (which pays a lot less than surgery) you aren't going to make as much money as if you spent most of your time in surgery and a little bit of time convincing patients that you have the "magic cure" for all their ills in this one little life-altering surgery (too bad they don't tell you that the "life-altering" isn't always good, and can be fatal or debilitating).
These problems with WLS have been happening for more than 30 years and WLS surgeons don't give a shit. How many more fat people have to die, how many more fat people have to suffer debilitating complications and worsened quality of life before they figure out that being fat is not a fate worse than death?
I wish, by everything I hold dear, that I could have now the quality of life I had before I had my WLS, and I don't have nearly as many complications from my WLS as a lot of people do, and I'm still alive, unlike a lot of fat people who have gone through this shit. And I can guarantee you that my quality of life is worse now than it was 12 years ago. 12 years ago, I could do my shopping at Cub's or Wal-Mart without having to use an electric cart, I could walk through a mall for half the day shopping and not be in severe pain halfway through it, I could eat a meal at a restaurant and not have to be aware of where every bathroom was and make sure that one was within 50 feet of me at all times, just in case. I could climb stairs without having to use the handrail to pull myself up them (and I wasn't out of breath because I was in so much pain from climbing the stairs). Yeah, WLS sure did improve my life a lot.......NOT! And that's why this kind of thing pisses me off and why I blog about it and why I risk embarrassment from telling those TMI bits - because I don't want anyone else to suffer what I've been through, or to suffer even worse than what I've been through (just take a look at the complications list I've posted before, you'll see what I mean).