Bariatric Surgery and Ulcers
While the benefits far outweigh the risks, all bariatric surgeries come with some degree of risk, even for minor postoperative issues. For example, some bariatric patients may face issues with stomach ulcers after surgery. Let's take a moment to consider why this happens and what can be done about it.
What Is an Ulcer?
Ulcers are sores that develop when the lining of the stomach or intestines becomes deeply eroded. They can develop regularly regardless of undergoing weight loss surgeries, but people who undergo bariatric procedures may face an increased risk of developing an ulcer. This can happen soon after surgery or years after the surgery is performed. Ulcers can occur in the stomach, where they are called gastric ulcers, or in the duodenum at the beginning of the small intestine, as a duodenal ulcer. They can be tiny or be an inch in size or more. They often result from an infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria or from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for a long period.
What Causes an Ulcer After Bariatric Surgery?
After undergoing weight loss surgery for morbid obesity, surgical staples are usually used to help patients heal after their stomach size has been altered. The staple line left behind can become irritated, which, in turn, results in an ulcer. Bacterial infections of the stomach can also cause or increase the risk of an ulcer developing.
Signs and Symptoms of Ulcers
The most common signs and symptoms of ulcers after bariatric surgery include the following:
- Blood in your vomit
- Blood in your stool
- Abdominal pain
Symptoms vary depending on where the ulcer is and how old you are. Stomach ulcers may produce few or no symptoms or may cause burning, gnawing pain in the upper middle abdomen that eases when eating or taking an antacid. Duodenal ulcers tend to cause consistent pain, which may be relieved by eating but often returns two to three hours later. Duodenal ulcers can also cause you to wake at night. If you notice any of these symptoms after your bariatric surgery, be sure to consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
Risk Factors for Ulcers
Some of the most common risk factors for developing ulcers after bariatric surgery include the following:
- Type of Bariatric Surgery Procedure – Ulcers after weight loss surgery tend to be more likely in patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery or a sleeve gastrectomy.
- Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products – Smoking and tobacco, in general, can lead to issues with recovery and healing time, resulting in a greater chance of an ulcer developing. Additionally, tobacco use can increase the risk of Heliobacter pylori infections.
- Use of Certain Medications –Aspirin, ibuprofen, and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can all cause stomach irritation and disturb the normal repair processes of the body, which makes postoperative ulcers more likely.
- Alcohol Consumption – Alcoholic beverages can irritate the lining of the stomach, making a person more prone to developing an ulcer.
- Drinking Caffeinated Beverages – Caffeine can increase the amount of stomach acid and its potency, which can irritate and worsen an existing stomach ulcer. This is just one of many reasons why caffeine intake should be limited after bariatric surgery.
A healthy diet and proper health practices can go a long way toward preventing an ulcer from forming.
Treating Ulcers After Bariatric Surgery
Ulcers are not always serious health issues. Many patients are able to deal with their ulcers through the use of medications. Anti-acid medications can help prevent irritation of the stomach lining due to stomach acid. Medications such as Carafate can protect the lining of the stomach from stomach acid, allowing the ulcer to heal on its own. If H. pylori cause your stomach ulcer, you will receive antibiotics. When treated, most stomach ulcers disappear within a month or two.
If an ulcer is serious and leads to bleeding or perforation of the stomach lining, surgical treatment will be required as soon as possible. Seek emergency medical advice if you:
- Vomit blood, which can appear bright red or have a dark brown color
- Pass dark, sticky tar-like stools
- Have sudden, sharp abdominal pain that steadily worsens
Learn More About Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery has myriad benefits to your health and overall sense of wellbeing. The team at Tijuana Bariatric Center knows this firsthand, having improved the lives of countless people through state-of-the-art bariatric surgery.
For more information about weight loss surgery, including the risk of ulcers after bariatric surgery, how it can benefit you, and what complications you may face, contact Tijuana Bariatric Center today at 800-970-0577 to schedule a virtual consultation. We will work closely with you to ensure your health and wellness after losing weight by surgical means.