Small-bowel obstruction after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: etiology, diagnosis, and management

Arch Surg. 2007 Oct;142(10):988-93. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.142.10.988.


Objective: To summarize our experience with small-bowel obstructions after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Design: Retrospective record review.

Setting: University-affiliated hospital.

Patients: One hundred five consecutive patients undergoing surgery for intestinal obstruction after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass between May 24, 2001, and December 1, 2006.

Main outcome measures: Common presenting symptoms, causes, yield of radiological studies, and types of surgical procedures performed for post-gastric bypass bowel obstruction.

Results: A total of 2325 laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedures were performed during the study period. A total of 105 patients underwent 111 procedures. Bowel obstruction was confirmed in 102 patients, yielding an overall incidence of 4.4%. The most common presenting symptom was abdominal pain (82.0%), followed by nausea (48.6%) and vomiting (46.8%). Thirty-one patients (27.9%) presented with all of the 3 mentioned symptoms. The mean time to presentation was 313 days after bypass (range, 3-1215 days). Among the studies, results in 48.0% of computed tomographic scans, 55.4% of upper gastrointestinal studies, and 34.8% of plain abdominal radiography studies were positive for intestinal obstruction. In 15 patients (13.5%), all of the radiological study results were negative. The most common causes were internal hernias (53.9%), Roux compression due to mesocolon scarring (20.5%), and adhesions (13.7%). Laparoscopic explorations were carried out in 92 cases (82.9%). The incidences of bowel obstructions were 4.8% with retrocolic Roux placement and 1.8% with antecolic Roux placement.

Conclusions: Altered gastrointestinal tract anatomy results in vague symptoms and a poor yield with imaging studies. A sound knowledge of altered anatomy is the key to correct interpretation of imaging studies and prompt diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastric Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnosis*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery*
  • Intestine, Small*
  • Laparoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed