Two tips for a better weight loss surgery outcome
Cleveland Clinic study highlight the risk of minimizing symptoms like pain and nausea after bariatric surgery
Cleveland Clinic researchers recently presented the results of a study about hospital readmissions for bariatric surgery patients.
Bariatric procedures are also called weight loss surgeries, and include things like gastric bypass, gastric sleeve (sleeve gastrectomy), gastric imbrication, lap band, and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Many bariatric surgeries can be done laparoscopically, without the large cuts or incisions of traditional surgery. Some of the procedures are even done on an outpatient basis.
The challenge of non-specific complaints
The Cleveland Clinic study concluded that about one-third of bariatric patients who were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of bariatric surgery had “vague, nonspecific complaints, such as nausea or pain.”
What that means is that nausea and pain can be caused by many different things, so the root cause is hard to diagnose. That does not mean, though, that the bariatric surgeon and team of doctors should not run tests and take these complaints very seriously.
Mental health considerations & saying “I’m fine”
Cleveland Clinic quoted Leslie Heinberg, PhD, MA as saying, “We know that bariatric surgery patients are a psychiatrically vulnerable population. They are more likely to have psychiatric difficulties than the population at large and even compared to patients with obesity who are not seeking surgery, and so these readmissions may be related to psychological issues.”
Most health insurance companies and bariatric surgeons require patients to see a psychologist before proceeding with weight loss surgery. Even with a mental health clearance before going to surgery, it is really hard to predict how a bariatric procedure will impact you.
The study found that patients who were readmitted to the hospital after a bariatric surgery because of nausea and pain typically under-reported their distress and probably also minimized complaints about medical and mental health issues.
This is a very significant finding. To me, the study is saying that some patients are saying “I’m fine” when they are not, likely out of hope that things will get better.
Some practical tips for a better bariatric outcome
As a Houston medical malpractice attorney, I have handled many cases for people who have had life-changing problems after bariatric surgery. Based on this experience, I have some recommendations on things that you can to do help attain better results after a weight loss surgery.
First and foremost, never discount or minimize your level of nausea or pain when talking to your surgeon, doctor, or nurse. Sometimes we like to wear rose colored glasses when we are talking to a doctor. Do not do that.
Realize that your health care providers are trying to assess whether your complaints are within the normal range of patient experiences, or if they are something unusually severe. Some pain is normal, but when it is severe and getting worse, there needs to be further investigation by the doctor.
Second, I recommend that you keep a written log of your pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and other symptoms after a bariatric surgery up until the time that you have recovered. Write down how your body responds after taking medication. Take notes on what triggers pain or nausea; for example, things like standing up, lying down, etc. This will enable you to provide detailed information to your surgeon and health care team, which will be helpful in forming a diagnosis.
I recently resolved a case that I was handling for a client who had some significant issues after a bariatric surgery. The patient and his family had a very specific recollection of severe pain, nausea, and vomiting the week after the surgery, but the doctor’s record of the follow-up visit showed that these symptoms had resolved and the patient was doing fine, with no complaints. There was a disconnect between the patient and the surgeon and it contributed to some major medical complications for my client.
We are here to help
Our experienced Texas medical malpractice attorneys have handled many kinds of bariatric surgery cases and are familiar with the things that can go wrong. For a free evaluation of your potential case, call Painter Law Firm at 281-580-8800.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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Published in the July/August 2018 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine