Background: Intestinal obstruction is a significant and increasingly recognized complication after laparoscopic and open gastric bypass.
Materials and methods: The medical records of 3,463 patients who had gastric bypass during the study period from July 1997 to December 2004 at a single bariatric center were evaluated. 1,120 patients had retrocolic, retrogastric Roux limb placement and 2,343 patients had antecolic, antegastric.
Results: 40 patients had 44 intestinal obstructions (1.27%). The onset ranged from 1 day to 7 years postoperatively (mean 16.9 months). Internal hernia at the transverse mesocolon defect was the most common cause. 36 (3.2%) obstructions were observed in retrocolic, retrogastric vs. 8 (0.3%) in antecolic, antegastric approach. Internal hernia repair at mesocolinic effect (n = 11), jejunojejunostomy mesenteric defect repair (n = 7), lysis of adhesions (n = 16) were the most common procedures. A total of 70.5% were done laparoscopically.
Conclusions: A high index of suspicion is needed to diagnose bowel obstruction after gastric bypass. Radiological imaging of the abdomen has significant limitations. Surgical exploration should be performed without delay. Diagnostic laparoscopy is a safe and effective therapy. We recommend closing all mesenteric defects to prevent internal hernias. The antecolic, antegastric technique reduces the incidence of internal hernias.