Should I be concerned with gastric sleeve complications?

I recently read a study that showed the percentage of people who experience serious complications from gastric sleeve surgery is actually less than those who undergo a gastric bypass. While that’s comforting, I’m still concerned that any complication will cost a lot of money, which I won’t have since I’m spending years of savings on the surgery itself. Plus, my insurance won’t cover anything.


F, 42, Utah

Tags:woman age 35-44 cost insurance complications


  • A sleeve gastrectomy is a laparoscopic weight loss surgery which reduces the overall capacity of the stomach to between 15 and 20% of its original size.
  • The right candidate for a gastric sleeve is morbidly obese with a BMI of 35 or more.
  • Like any surgery, gastric sleeve surgery does have risks. These risks may include blood clotting, bleeding, infection, vitamin deficiency, and leaking along the suture line.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy is considered slightly safer than gastric bypass surgery and generally results in significant weight loss and an increased quality of life for patients.

The consensus is based on 4 doctor replies to this question. For more details, scroll down to read them.

Regarding insurance approvals for gastric sleeve surgery: Most insurance companies actually do offer coverage for weight loss surgeries. These surgeries include gastric sleeve surgery, gastric balloon, gastric bypass surgery, and gastric banding (lap band) procedures.

The issue when it comes to insurance coverage is whether or not the procedure is considered necessary or elective. If you are morbidly obese, which is generally defined as having a body mass index of 40 or more (or, in some cases, 35 or more), there is a good chance your insurance will consider the surgery necessary or non-elective.

To be approved for insurance purposes you will need a letter from a bariatric surgeon, a written statement that other non-surgical weight loss methods have been ineffective, and a minimum BMI above the diagnostic threshold for morbid obesity.

If you suffer from morbid obesity, my advice is to think first about your health. Consult with an experienced surgeon about the severity of your condition and let him or her make the determination of whether your surgery is necessary.

All surgeries carry potential risks. In cases where surgery is a medical necessity, the risks associated with any specific procedure should be evaluated relative to the risks of non-intervention.

Yes, you are correct that sleeve gastrectomy carries fewer complications than gastric bypass surgery. A sleeve gastrectomy is a simpler bariatric procedure that maintains a natural digestive process with less risk of nutritional deficiency. Gastric sleeve surgery can be performed laparoscopically and does not bypass the pyloric valve or small intestine.

While both weight loss surgeries carry some risk of associated complications, gastric sleeve surgery is generally considered less risky than a bypass. Potential risks associated with sleeve gastrectomy include stomach leakage, blood clots, vitamin deficiency, infection, and bleeding.

A gastric bypass is a more complex and invasive bariatric surgery. Complications include bleeding, blood clots, stomach leakage, dumping syndrome, infection, nutritional deficiency, bowel obstruction, and gastric ulcers.

To answer your question about whether you should be concerned with potential risks and complications, both surgeries are intended for patients with morbid obesity. While there are common complications associated with both weight-loss procedures, the reason for considering weight loss surgery are the comorbidities of diabetes, high blood-pressure, and other obesity-related issues which occur as a result of having a high BMI.

When considering the potential complications of your gastric sleeve procedure, you and your doctor should carefully weigh the risks of having the procedure against the risks of not having it and continuing to live with morbid obesity.

A gastric sleeve surgical procedure is a big decision so it's important to consider the associated potential risks and lifestyle changes involved.

A sleeve gastrectomy is a bariatric surgery which removes approximately 80% of the stomach. After the surgery, your existing stomach size will be significantly smaller (resembling a tube or a sleeve). Because your stomach capacity will be reduced to just about four ounces, the amount of food required to reach satiety will be similarly reduced.

Along with the intended loss of excess weight come a few potential long-term complications you should be aware of: gastroesophageal reflux disease, diarrhea, leaking along the staple line, incisional hernia, malnutrition issues, gallstones, nausea, or infectious abscess.

Of all these issues, the most common one is staple line leaks, which occur in just over two percent of patients. To reduce the risk of serious complications be sure to consult with an experienced bariatric surgeon who has extensive experience with laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and the latest surgical techniques.

Keep in mind that gastric sleeve patients usually suffer greater risks from obesity-related illness than they do from associated surgical complications. While it's important to be aware of the risks associated with surgery, it's also important to consider the health problems obese patients face without the necessary treatment. 

you should be concerned with any procedure that has potential complications, but after looking at the pros and cons, you should make a determination as to whether or not it makes sense for you and whether the risks are worth the rewards in your own case.  only you can answer that question.