Serious Question: How Common is It that People Die From the Surgery?

Anne Crawford
on 10/12/07 10:01 am - GA
I am a really big lurker on this site.  I post some, but I read constantly.  I see those that have had the surgery and are struggling with BIG ISSUES, and I see those that have had surgery and seem fine.  How common is it that people die from this? The surgical practice I will be using has advised, as has the hospital, that they have not had any die from the surgery at all, at least that they can remember for the last three years.  Complications yes, but mostly minor ones.  They do the surgery laproscopically only, and they turn NO ONE away. How common are the complications???
Full of Life
on 10/12/07 10:07 am - Broken Arrow, OK
How common complications are don't really matter. If I said there's a 10% chance of complications and you thought, well that's pretty good I'll go ahead with surgery... then you have complications, you'll feel real quick that percentages don't mean a thing when it happens to you!!!! (I know because I'm in the extreme small percentage of ppl who have extreme mal absorbtion issues). When I was in the hospital and couldnt eat/drink, and was fighting to get my surgeon to even take me serious (he said I should just try harder to eat), finally got TPN to keep me alive!!! It was absolutely no comfort to me at all to know that I was in that 1% of patients!!!! You have to go into this knowing what the complications are. And you have to be able to say, that those complications are worth the risk in order to better my health by losing weight through surgery. If you can't say that, don't have the surgery!!!  There are ppl who weigh the options and decide that it's not worth the risk to them. That's fine, I totally respect their decision.  Thats why education is so very important in making your decision.  Best of wishes on your journey to health.  HUGS

I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me


RNY 5-19-05      
hernia repair/tt 4-10-06
BW: 262 lbs     GW: 140 lbs     CW: 126 lbs

5 Day Pouch Test Graduate!!! I lost 5 pounds and feel GREAT

Elizabeth N.
on 10/12/07 10:25 am - Burlington County, NJ

I wouldn't accept "nobody, at least not in the last three years that we can remember" as an answer. But I'm finicky that way :-). If the surgeon who's gonna do his/her work on me can't look me in the eye and tell me with confidence and honesty how many patients he's lost, I'd not proceed with him.  Different studies give slightly different mortality rates, but percentages don't really tell the story. It's important to research the surgeon, the anesthesia team, the hospital, etc. to see how things are where YOU will be.  There's also a big difference between dying in or as a direct result of the surgery itself, and what happens later on. Those are two different kinds of statistics. It's important to look at your surgeon's long-term postops' records, too.

Every type of WLS is major surgery, regardless of what the TV advertisements say. They all involve general anesthesia, getting into your abdomen, and some time in the hospital, even if that time is less than a day. That means you will get exposed to all the risks involved with anesthesia, potential for infection, etc. Any surgery is a calculated risk. It is absolutely mandatory that people considering any form of WLS understand this.....Yet I often get the feeling from reading here (not from you though) that way too many people sign on the dotted line without really grasping this important fact.

So, I applaud you for considering your choices carefully. The odds favor a good-to-excellent outcome, but there is still risk involved. Only you can decide if your health and life risks, being MO, outweigh the risks involved in surgery and the changes that follow.

Amy Williams
on 10/12/07 10:30 am
It is helpful to go with a surgical group that does have good stats.  However, complications can happen to the very best surgeons.  They just happen, but the more surgeons have performed the more likely they will have less complications because they know what to be watching for.  I have had several good friend use the surgeon group you have listed.  They have a very good before and after care. 

  I've lost over 400 pounds!  
I love helping others, if you have a question just ask!  

Click on a link to read more about my journey:  
My website   My reconstructive photos 

Anne Crawford
on 10/12/07 10:28 am - GA

I know that the hospital and the doctor's program are both part of the Centers of Excellence program, and I do feel that they are both very very thorough with the presurgery battery of tests and education.  They really give you a lot of education prior to making a choice.  I did research both the hospital and the doctor and they are correct, they have had no deaths "as a direct result of the rny procedure".  They, from what I understand, have had deaths from people that had pre existing medical conditions and they died from those such as heart issues and aneurysm(sp?) that I know of.  I know that no one can give me reassurances and I know that everyone is different and no one knows how your body will tolerate this surgery..but reading all of these stories here is scary.  You see some who cannot eat food on their own, others in the hosp and no one knows what wrong...and yet, the greater majority seem fine. It just seems like as Miss Leticia puts it, " a box of never know what you'll get".  But I was just wondering, how common it is.  I am trying to go into this with my eyes as wide open as they can be and I appreciate all of your replies.

on 10/12/07 10:48 am - Humboldt, TN
Annemarie.... Hey there.... I want to tell you I am VERY HAPPY with my decision to have Lap RNY ..I am having some emotional issues....that are common with weight loss. I had my surgery done at a Center of Excellence. I had several co morbid conditions.. before my surgery.... I could have died from any of them ...well still could....... I had many many tests before my surgery to make sure I was medically stable to have my surgery. The way to look at this is...if it is your time to die you are gonna die...we don't get to make an appointment  to die...You have to put ALL your FAITH and TRUST into your higher power.........and your doctor..research research research......then research some more!  I thought about having my surgery for several YEARS  it was what I wanted to just had to be at the right time for me.  YES there have been deaths YES there have been complications... there are NO  promises in this life!

Work like you don't need the money......

Amy B.
on 10/12/07 10:41 am, edited 10/12/07 10:41 am - Deerfield, IL
It is true that folks have big problems and some people die (something like 2% mortality rate nationally).  The odds get better the younger you are, the healthier you are and by surgeon.  If you are concerned really research your specific surgeon to learn his/her mortality rate.  From what you're saying it sounds good - but how many surgeries has your surgeon done?  A big factor for me in choosing Dr. Boe was that he had done close to 2000 lap RNY's before he got to me (and only had 1 death and that death was someone in their 50's who had really bad comorbities going into surgery). I agree with what the first poster said though - there still is a chance that the complications could happen to you and that is something you need to weigh in your own mind to decide if the potential benefits out weigh the risks.  I'm suffering from a pretty big complication and like the first poster I had to get my nutrition through a tube for a while because of it.  Now I have a tube coming from my excluded stomach (the left over stomach after the pouch is made) that empties into a bag I have to wear under my shirt because my excluded has stopped contracting.  This has been a long ordeal.  But at the end of the day what I have gained from WLS makes it worth it.  If I die from this, which my surgeon said is a possibility, it'll still have been worth it because of the new life I got to live in the meantime.  But that's just me. EDITED to add:  If you really want to see the bare naked worst that can come from WLS visit the memorials page.  Go up to "People" and in the dop box select "Memorials".  I spent hours looking at this portion of OH before I had surgery.  It is tragic but something we all should know is a possibility.

   Amy 293/140 - AT GOAL!   

on 10/12/07 11:15 am - San Diego, CA
Well I'm a newbie and right now I'm researching everything.  I went to two seminars and spoke with two different physicians.  I was surprised when in each instance they said 1 out of 100 die with the gastric bypass, but none from the lapband.  I don't know if this is true or not, but that's what I've been told on several different occassions.In one seminar they even posed the question "if you knew that out of a 100 planes that one was going to crash, would you fly anyway? Needless to say everyone said "NO" but keep in mind this was a lapband seminar.   I think if we don't do something to get the weight under control we're in trouble anyway.
on 10/12/07 11:32 am - Citrus Heights, CA
RNY on 04/04/12
Hi mrsmaryj, I wanted to chime in on there being NO deaths with banding , that just isn't true , while it is VERY uncommon , banding being the safest WLS, it does happen in about 1 in 2,000, I liked those odds. ALL surgery ( even dental ) holds risks. For a doc to say that there have been no deaths , maybe he ment "on the table" as aposed to the day after from a blood clot....who knows. Best wishes to all!! If you want to learn more about the band come over to the  lap band forum.

Donna Q. --5'8" -60 years old
Band 2005
hw320 sw276 lw with band 195 gw 160-180? 
Bypass 4/4/2012
pre sw 258 lw RNY 162 cw 203

(deactivated member)
on 10/12/07 10:48 am

Hi, AnnMarie: Good question. The death rate for gastric bypass is about one quarter of one percent--that's about 1 in 400 patients. The most common cause is a blood clot to the lung and you can ask for a "Greenfield filter" to prevent that if you have a history of them. The risks are higher in some people (men, those over 50 BMI, older, sleep apnea, diabetes, etc). Less experienced surgeons have more complications. Ask you doctor what HIS/HER death rate is and what their complication rate is. Ask them how many surgeries they have performed. Don't accept a vague answer. Ask for numbers.

  Everyone of us has had to face this reality before we were wheeled into the operating room. For me the risk of surgery seemed less than the risk of dying from the complications of morbid obesity, including diabetes. Each of us had to decide whether or not to take the leap. A new study found that those who had WLS lived longer than those who didn't. Good luck with your decision.

This is from the American Obesity Association 

General Risks of Obesity Surgery