Dec 04

Facts About Weight Loss Surgery – Safety and Risks

The author's physician completed the surgery with the DaVinci Robotic Assisted Surgery System

The author’s physician completed the surgery with the DaVinci Robotic Assisted Surgery System

There are risks with any surgery. You’ve heard doctors say that time and time again.

But, how safe or risky is weight loss surgery? We researched the facts for you. We turned to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons (ASMBS).

The sources ADMBS used for this fact sheet are available through ASMBS. Review the references/sources for this fact sheet.


Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and recent clinical studies report significant improvements in metabolic and bariatric surgery safety

  • Primary reasons for improved safety include increased use of laparoscopy, advancements in surgical techniques, and establishment of ASMBS and American College of Surgeons (ACS) accreditation programs
  • Laparoscopic bariatric operations increased from 20.1% in 2003 to 90.2% in 20087
  •  Overall likelihood of major complications is about 2.5%. Individual complication rates include:
    • Gastric bypass – 3.6%
    • Sleeve gastrectomy – 2.2%
    • Adjustable gastric band – 0.9%
  • Overall mortality rate is about 0.1%,
  • Individual complication rates include
    •  Gastric bypass – 0.1%
    • Sleeve gastrectomy – 0.19%
    • Adjustable gastric band – 0.02%
  • Clinical evidence shows risks of morbid obesity outweigh risks of metabolic and bariatric surgery
  • Individuals with morbid obesity or BMI≥30 have a 50-100% increased risk of premature death compared to individuals of healthy weight
  • Studies show metabolic and bariatric surgery increases life span
    • Gastric bypass patients may improve life expectancy by 89%
    • Patients may reduce risk of premature death by 30-40%


  • Studies show patients typically lose the most weight 1-2 years after surgery, and maintain substantial weight loss with improvements in obesity related conditions
    • Patients may lose as much as 60% of excess weight six months after surgery, and 77% of excess weight as early as 12 months after surgery
    • On average, 5 years after surgery patients maintain 50% of their excess weight loss


  • Metabolic and bariatric surgery help to improve or resolve more than 40 obesity-related diseases and conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, sleep apnea, GERD, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and joint problems
    • 60% reduction in mortality from cancer, with the largest reductions seen in breast and colon cancers
    • 56% reduction in mortality from coronary artery disease
    • 92% reduction in mortality from Type 2 diabetes
    • 40% overall reduction in mortality in gastric bypass patients


Condition/Disease      % Resolved or Improved      % Resolved

Type 2 Diabetes      86%      76.8%

Hypertension      78.5%      61.7%

Obstructive Sleep Apnea      85.7%     83.6%

Hyperlipidemia      78.5%      61.7%


Stomach reduced to size of walnut and then attached to middle of small intestine, bypassing a section of the small intestine (duodenum and jejunum) limiting absorption of calories

Risks include allergic reactions to medicines, blood clots in the legs, blood loss, breathing problems, heart attack or stroke during or after surgery, and infection


Adjustable silicone band filled with saline wrapped around upper part of stomach, creating small pouch that restricts food intake

Risks include the gastric band eroding through the stomach, the gastric band slipping partly out of place, gastritis, heartburn, stomach ulcers, infection in the port, injury to the stomach, intestines, or other organs during surgery, poor nutrition, and scarring inside the belly


Stomach divided and stapled vertically, removing more than 85%, creating tube or banana-shaped pouch restricting amount of food that can be consumed and absorbed by the body

Risks include gastritis, heartburn, stomach ulcers, injury to the stomach, intestines, or other organs during surgery, leaking from the line where parts of the stomach have been stapled together, poor nutrition, scarring inside the belly that could lead to a future blockage in the bowel, and vomiting


  1. Metabolic and bariatric surgery approximately costs between $11,500 and $26,000
  2. On average, health care costs for morbidly obese patients were reduced by 29% within 5 years following bariatric surgery, due to the reduction or elimination of obesity-related conditions
  3. Estimates suggest, third-party payers will recover metabolic and bariatric surgery costs within 2-4 years following a patient’s procedure, as a result of the reduction in costs associated with treating obesity-related conditions
  4. According to expert analysis, surgical treatment of morbid obesity results in individual worker productivity gain of $2,765 per year for U.S. employers

About the author

Laurie Lee Dovey

LLD is a writer, photographer, marketing and media consultant, hunter, angler, RVer, sports nut, poker player, and wife.


  1. raquel

    It says with a gastric bypass surgery. That risk heart attack r stroke..is that with everybody r certain. People that have a bmi over 30??/????

    1. Laurie Lee Dovey

      We are not physicians so we can’t directly answer your question. The information provided here came from the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons (ASMBS) http://weightlosssurgeryus.com/. We suggest you visit with your personal physician about risks of obesity and of weight loss surgery as they relate to you personally.

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