Botched Weight Loss Surgery FAQ
The Law Of… Losing Weight
Weight loss surgery is prescribed to people who are clinically obese to help them achieve a healthier weight. But what happens when it goes wrong?
Medical Negligence Partner, Daxa Patel, answers frequently asked questions regarding weight loss surgery.
What Is Weight Loss Surgery?
Weight loss or bariatric surgery is an invasive procedure used to tackle obesity. It is typically recommended when alternatives such as dieting and exercise have failed, although weight loss surgery is available through private health providers on request.
Under the NHS, bariatric surgery is offered to people who meet all of the necessary requirements:
- A body mass index (BMI) of 40+ (35–40 in cases of a serious condition such as type 2 diabetes)
- Natural methods of weight loss have been exhausted without success
- An agreement to accept follow-up conditions such as changing lifestyle choices and attending check-ups
- Able to undergo a major operation under general anaesthetic.
Weight loss surgery requires ongoing commitment to achieve the desired results and is not intended as a quick fix procedure to reduce obesity.
What Types Of Weight Loss Surgery Are Available?
There are 4 main types of weight loss surgery available. These are:
- Gastric band – Perhaps the most recognised of weight loss surgeries, but not necessarily the most effective. This procedure involves attaching a band to the stomach to create a pouch, which requires less food to make the patient feel full. A gastric band is tightened non-surgically at intervals following surgery, until an ideal fit is attained.
- Gastric bypass – As with a gastric band, this procedure involves creating a small pouch at the top of the stomach, but instead of a silicone band, titanium staples are used. The pouch bypasses the rest of the stomach, connecting directly to the small intestine, once again requiring less food to make the patient feel full.
- Intra-gastric balloon – A temporary measure involving an air or salt water-filled balloon, placed in the stomach to reduce the amount of room and require less food to fill.
- Sleeve gastrectomy – Like a gastric bypass, this is a non-reversible procedure. It involves removing a large portion of the stomach to reduce its size, making the patient feel fuller sooner and preventing them from eating too much.
What Are The Potential After Effects Of Weight Loss Surgery?
As with all major procedures, there is the potential for adverse after effects following weight loss surgery. For instance, it is essential that you consume the right amount of vitamins and minerals, which your diet may not be able to provide. Therefore supplements may be necessary for the rest of your life.
Excess and unsightly skin is often a problem, which may require further surgery to remove.
Another possible by-product of sudden weight loss resulting from the bariatric surgery is gallstones. These are small stones formed from excess cholesterol released by the liver, which, in some cases, can be serious. They would need medication to dissolve them or surgery to have them, or your gallbladder, removed.
How Can Weight Loss Surgery Go Wrong?
Although healthcare in the UK is continually rated as the best in the world, on the rarest of occasions things sometimes go wrong.
Complications from weight loss surgery that goes wrong can include:
- Infection – The wound becomes infected. This is not uncommon, but failure to identify and treat a potentially serious infection can have life-threatening consequences.
- Blood clots – A risk of any major surgical procedure due to inactivity during recovery, hospitals routinely provide treatment to manage and reduce the risk. If there are shortcomings in this treatment, a blood clot may form, usually in the lower legs. Deep vein clots (deep vein thrombosis) can be fatal if they break away and travel to the lungs, causing a blockage of the artery therein (pulmonary embolism).
- Leaking gut – This applies to cases of gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, where the 'bag' of the stomach has been cut. Following the surgery there is a very slim chance that food can leak from the stomach, causing bacteria to enter the bloodstream, leading to infection and illness.
- Gastric band slip – In very rare cases, a gastric band may become displaced, which can result in acid reflux leading to heartburn, chest pains, nausea and vomiting. Surgery would be required to either rectify the band's displacement or remove it altogether.
- Malnutrition – Malnutrition is a very real risk for anybody who has undergone weight loss surgery. This is due to the way dietary fat helps with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Without supplementation, there is a high risk of illness. Regular blood tests will monitor your levels, so that any deficiencies can be identified and remedied.
- Death – As with all major operations, weight loss surgery carries the very small risk of dying while on the operating table or as a direct result of any complications that arise. Statistics for the UK have suggested that around 1 in every 1,400 patients who undergoes bariatric surgery dies within the first month of the procedure – a fatality rate of 0.07%.
What Do I Do If My Weight Loss Surgery Went Wrong?
If your weight loss surgery went wrong, resulting in debilitating complications or, in the case of a family member, death, you may be entitled to compensation.
To make a claim for yourself or on behalf of a deceased loved one, you should seek professional legal advice.
Why Should I Make A Claim For Botched Weight Loss Surgery?
A successful medical negligence claim against the hospital or healthcare provider you believe responsible for your injuries will:
- Allow you the financial security to provide the care and ongoing support you may need due to the complications arising from the mismanaged weight loss surgery
- Help to ensure the errors that led to your suffering are not repeated with other patients.
How Can I Make A Claim For Weight Loss Surgery That Went Wrong?
To find out whether you have grounds for a claim, you should speak to an independent law firm with a proven track record of handling cases involving clinical error. With our dedicated Medical Negligence department, Simpson Millar has a team specialising in complex cases of this nature.
How Long Do I Have To Make A Claim For Botched Weight Loss Surgery?
In the UK, there is a 3 year statute of limitation on medical negligence/personal injury cases. This means you have a 3 year window either from when the weight loss surgery took place or from when the resulting adverse effects of the procedure were diagnosed, in which to start your claim.
The same applies if you are claiming on behalf of a loved one who is deceased. The limitation is 3 years from the date of their passing.
What Should I Do Next?
If you have suffered or sustained an injury as a result of weight loss surgery, speak to one of our expert team. With our considerable experience of medical negligence cases, Simpson Millar can ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to.
To find out whether you have a claim, contact us today.