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Health Risks of Gastric Bypass Reversal

By Lori Newell ; Updated July 18, 2017

Gastric bypass is a type of weight loss surgery generally recommended for those with 100 or more pounds to lose, have a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or higher, and have failed to lose weight with diet and exercise. There are various types of gastric bypass procedures, but all aim to reduce the physical size of the stomach and bypass a portion of the intestines, so that the body cannot hold as much food. While the procedure is generally considered safe, there can be complications, which require a reversal of the bypass. There are also health risks associated with gastric bypass reversal, which a patient should discuss with his physician before having the initial surgery.

Weight Gain

Bypass surgery can help patients lose a significant amount of weight; however, it only makes the stomach smaller and does not change the behavioral issues that led to overeating. With reversal, one of the most common health risks is regaining all the weight that was lost as the patient returns to her typical eating patterns. As the weight is gained back, the health risks of obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, return with it.


If the staples or stitches used in gastric bypass surgery do not heal properly, contents of the intestines can leak into the stomach. This can cause serious infections and symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, stomach pain, fever, shortness of breath, nausea and a general sense malaise. This complication occurs in only about 1 percent of all surgeries. However, the risk for developing a leak is higher in revisional gastric surgeries, which are performed due to either inadequate weight loss or complications, warns the West Penn Allegheny Health System Bariatric Surgery Center. Each patient is different and there is no current statistic for how many patients develop this complication, because reversal surgery is not that common. Health complications from reversal are also lower in patients who are compliant with the dietary and lifestyle guidelines given to them, after the reversal is complete.

Injury to Organs During Revisional Surgery

As the body heals from the initial gastric surgery, scars or adhesions may form on the stomach and nearby organs. If revisional surgery is performed, removal of these scars is necessary, which can damage the stomach and other organs, states the website. The organs most commonly affected include the pancreas, liver and spleen. Organ damage can lead to a variety of health problems and in serious cases can be fatal. There may be internal bleeding or hemorrhaging and an increased risk of infections. The wound itself may become infected and the infection can spread to the urinary tract. In some cases, an abscess or a pocket of fluid may develop near the surgical site. Infections usually require antibiotic treatment and close observation.

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