Objective: To examine the development of chemical and clinical vitamin B12 deficiency after total gastrectomy, and to evaluate the efficacy of supplemental oral B12 administration.
Summary background data: Postgastrectomy anemia is due to deficiencies of iron and vitamin B12, and parenteral B12 administration is the only appropriate treatment. However, no guidelines exist for the prophylactic use of B12 in patients who undergo total gastrectomy, the clinical presentation of B12 deficiency in this context has not been defined, and the question of whether oral B12 administration can be used to prevent and treat B12 deficiency has not been examined.
Methods: Serum B12 concentrations were measured in 31 patients who had undergone total gastrectomy. Symptoms related to B12 deficiency were surveyed in detail. Serum B12 concentrations were measured every 6 months after total gastrectomy in 10 patients. Thirty one patients received supplemental B12: 18 patients orally and 13 by intramuscular injection.
Results: The B12 concentration dropped below the lower limit of normal (200 pg/mL) for the first time in two patients at 1 year, in four patients at 2 years, in three patients at 3 years, and in one patient at 4 years. Seventy-eight percent of patients reported some symptoms related to B12 deficiency. The serum B12 concentration in patients who received supplemental B12 orally increased rapidly and all symptoms resolved with oral therapy alone.
Conclusions: B12 deficiency can develop as early as 1 year after total gastrectomy and causes symptoms. Because enteral B12 treatment increases the serum B12 concentration and leads to rapid resolution of symptoms, it should be prescribed routinely to patients undergoing total gastrectomy.