Gastrointestinal bleeding after gastric bypass surgery: nuisance or catastrophe?

Surg Obes Relat Dis. Nov-Dec 2010;6(6):643-7. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2010.07.016. Epub 2010 Sep 16.


Background: Bleeding in the early postoperative period after gastric bypass surgery is a rare complication reported in 1-4% of cases. In most cases, the bleeding will be self-limited, resolving after discontinuation of anticoagulation for deep venous thrombosis prophylaxis. Occasionally, however, bleeding can be problematic, resulting in significant postoperative morbidity or even mortality. The purpose of the present study was to review cases of early postoperative gastrointestinal bleeding after gastric bypass to identify possible risk factors and examine outcomes.

Methods: A prospective weight loss surgery patient database was reviewed to examine the cases occurring from January 2005 to July 2008. Patients with early postoperative bleeding were identified. The demographics and co-morbidities were compared between those with and without postoperative bleeding. The outcomes of interest included the transfusion requirement, postoperative morbidity, need for reoperation, length of hospital stay, intensive care unit admission, and 30-day mortality.

Results: A total of 776 patients had undergone gastric bypass during the study period. Of these, 26 (3.3%) were identified with early postoperative bleeding. No significant differences were found in the demographics between the patients with early postoperative bleed and those without. Of the patients with early postoperative bleeding, the most common presenting sign or symptom was tachycardia (46%) followed by melena (32%) and hematemesis (18%). The transfusion requirement range was 0-11 U (average 3.2 U/patient). Of the 26 patients, 4 (15%) required intensive care unit admission and 8 (31%) required reoperation. Four gastrointestinal leaks, one stomal ulceration, and one gastrogastric fistula were identified in the early postoperative bleeding group. One patient (3.8%) in the early postoperative bleeding group died. Compared with nonbleeding patients, those with early postoperative bleeding had a significantly longer hospital stay (4.8 versus 3, P <.0001) and greater mortality rate (7.1% versus .9%, P <.01).

Conclusion: Postoperative bleeding is a significant complication after gastric bypass surgery. Although in many cases, the bleeding will be self-limited, it can result in additional notable complications. In the present study, postoperative bleeding contributed to significantly longer hospital stays and resulted in 1 death. A patient with bleeding after gastric bypass should raise due concern, with attention to the potential attendant complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Transfusion / statistics & numerical data
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Gastric Bypass / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Reoperation / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult