Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleed following weight loss surgery is rare but does require knowledge of the particular bariatric surgical procedure the patients has and how to proceed with diagnostics to fully evaluate the situation. Acute or chronic gastrointestinal bleeding can cause anemia in patients. However, Anemia may also be caused by nutritional deficiencies (iron, vitamin , minerals), Kidney disease, bone marrow disease and others. The work-up for anemia following weight loss surgery follows a routine protocol. If there is an evidence of bleeding from intestine (bloody emesis, bloody bowel movement, “tar” like black bowel movements) then the diagnostic work up would include an upper and lower endoscopy.
Upper endoscopy Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): evaluates the esophagus, stomach and a limited area of the duodenum past pyloric valve.
Lower endoscopy Colonoscopy or coloscopy: evaluates the rectus and the entire colon.
Between these two tests, there is still a considerable amount of the small bowel that is not accessible or visualized with endoscopic procedures. For the small bowel, examination Capsule endoscopy is an option in an intact GI tract. Patients who have had Gastric bypass RNY or the Duodenal Switch, the large segments of the small bowel can not be visualized or examined with capsule endoscopy.
Patients who have had Duodenal Switch, Gastric Bypass and SADI – S would need a tagged red cell scan or CT angiography if GI bleed is suspected in areas of the small intestine that are inaccessible by endoscopic procedures.
There are differing opinions, based on a broad set of scientific publication, wether or not gallbladder should be removed at the time of weight loss surgery. Obviously, Cholecystectomy is a stand alone general surgical procedure that is often performed due to gallstones and/or gallbladder disease with a variety of symptoms. However, the focus of this blog will deal with Bariatric Surgery and Cholecystectomy.
Rapid weight loss can increase a patients chance of forming gallstones. This rapid weight loss can be as little as 3-5 pounds per week. Weight loss surgery can increase your risk for gallstone formation. Several of the common thought processes the mechanism of this is, obesity may be linked to higher cholesterol in the bile, larger gallbladders, high fat diet and larger abdominal girth.
When a patient is having the Duodenal Switch (DS) Bariatric operation, or having a revision of a failed gastric bypass to the DS, I always remove the gallbladder. This is because there isn’t an anatomical route to utilize endoscopic procedure for an ERCP should the need rise.
In the case of a patient undergoing Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, if there are any indications or complaints of abdominal pain then an ultrasound is done. If there are findings of gallstones or other disease of the gallbladder, then a cholecystectomy is performed at the same time as the Sleeve Gastrectomy.
In my opinion, every patient having the Gastric Bypass (RNY) should also have the gallbladder removed because of the anatomical limitations after surgery that prevents the use of ERCP if needed. Some clinicians will place the patient on a long term medications to reduce the chance of gladstone formation after surgery, which themselves have side effects limiting the compliance in most patients.
Further information on Common Bile Duct Dilatation and ERCP
PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome PCOS is a complex condition. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown however, it involves hormones imbalance and multiple ovarian cysts, irregular menses, and infertility. In some cases, PCOS can be compounded by diabetes, hypertension and other metabolic conditions. PCOS has been shown to effect approximately 10% of women of childbearing age with symptoms of menstrual abnormalities, poly cystic ovaries, and excess androgen (male sex hormone). PCOS should be diagnosed by ensuring there are no other underlying endocrine issues. There are several associated disease processes that seem to be related to PCOS. These related disease processes are Type 2 Diabetes, higher depression and anxiety, increased cardiovascular risks, stroke, hyperlipidemia, sleep apnea, overall inflammation, and endometrial cancer.
Anatomically, numerous cysts are found on the ovaries. These are usually diagnosed by ultrasound, blood levels of hormones, and symptoms described above.
Bariatric Surgery and PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome PCOS
Bariatric Surgery can improve PCOS in those individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Further information on weight loss surgery and its effect on PCOS here.
A Hiatal Hernia is an abnormal opening or widening of the gastroesophageal junction, which is located at the top of the stomach within the diaphragm. Laparoscopic Hiatal Hernia Surgery is done to tighten the junction between the stomach and esophagus. The most common surgery is done by pulling the stomach back below the diaphragm and wrapping the top of the stomach around the junction between the stomach and esophagus. The stomach is then sewn in place. Surgery is the only way to treat a hiatal hernia that is causing severe symptoms.
Laparoscopic Hiatal Hernia Repair can be performed using Robotic or traditional Laparascopic techniques, both options are minimally invasive.
There is also a technique that can be utilized for hiatal hernia repair post Sleeve Gastrectomy. A Hiatal Hernia Repair can be accomplished post weight loss surgery also. Follow link to see videos: here
Hiatal Hernia Causes:
- heavy lifting
- persistent vomiting
- age related
- sour taste
- chest or abdominal pain
- difficulty swallowing
- no symptoms
Are Health Insurances working against you? Especially in people who have the disease of obesity? Insurance companies continue to lengthen the pre-operative period. The time that is required to lapse has now in some cases been extended between 6-12 months for some commercial health plans. There are yet again studies that have shown no benefit to the patient with this mandated waiting periods imposed on the patients. Unfortunately, the patients need to challenge the health care insurance companies by the means of all options that may be available to them. This may include internal appeal to external evaluation by some state agency. There are numerous studies that show pre-operative dieting does not equal better weight loss or compliance.
A Parathyroid scan or Sestamibi scan may be needed if the typical weight loss surgical reasons for elevated PTH levels have been addressed. Sestamibi is a small protein which is labeled with the radio-pharmaceutical technetium-99. This very mild and safe radioactive agent is injected into the veins of a patient with overactive parathyroid and is absorbed by the overactive parathyroid gland. If the parathyroid is normal it will not absorb the agent. The scan below shows the uptake of the agent.
Calcium, Vitamin D and Parathyroid hormone are routinely measured on yearly follow up for most post weight loss surgical (WLS) patients. Elevated parathyroid hormone (PTH) may be caused by Vitamin D deficiency or calcium deficiency (most common in post WLS) or by over active parathyroid gland(s). In the latter case, if one of the four glands is overactive then this is knows as a parathyroid Adenoma. If all 4 are over active and are secreting too much PTH, this is known as hyperplasia. Ultrasound of the neck, may identify an enraged parathyroid gland (adenoma) which is located behind the thyroid gland. Given the large area where the parathyroid gland may be located, additional tests are needed to not only identify the location of the gland(s) but also to distinguish between single gland (adenoma) or multiple glands (hyperplasia) cause for the elevated PTH. It is important to investigate all avenues and testing in parathyroid hormone elevation and in some cases, not to rely on one test for your diagnosis. It is also imperative that weight loss surgical patients take their supplements routinely and consistently and have their laboratory studies followed at least yearly.
One of the findings following Gastric Bypass is a Candy Cane Gastric Bypass. Nausea and vomiting , upper abdominal pain is a common complaint of patient who have had the Gastric Bypass RNY operation. This is in addition to the high incidence of patients who experience the complications of weight regain and or dumping syndrome.
Quite frequently the symptoms of nausea, vomiting and upper abdominal pain of a patient with history of gastric bypass is evaluated by a primary care, referred to a gastroenterologist. The “routine” work up recommended is X-ray of the abdomen, maybe contrast study (Ct scan or upper GI) and for sure and upper endoscopy. The result quite frequently reported as “…nothing wrong”.
A typical upper GI in a Candy Cane Gastric Bypass situation may look like this:
A common and underreported problem may be a Candy Cane finding. The “blind” end of the small bowel anastomosis is too long and this results in food settling in the hook of the candy cane. The symptoms of the nausea, vomiting and upper abdominal pain may be from the residual food and liquids that do not drain from this area. This can cause symptoms such as coughing or hoarseness due to reflux, nausea, vomiting, reflux of food or acid, weight regain and epigastric pain, especially when eating.
Candy Cane Gastric Bypass finding
Candy Cane Gastric Bypass cases will require surgical intervention to shorten the length of the blind segment of the small bowel to improve symptoms.
It is my recommendations that any patient with history of weight loss surgery who is having any persistent gastrointestinal symptoms be evaluated by weight loss surgeon.
Calcium is measured to evaluate function and adequacy of a physiologic processes. Calcium plays a critical role in several body functions such as, coagulation pathways, bone health, nerve conduction, and other functions. It is important whenever you are evaluating laboratory results that you look at the whole picture of the person, including medications, other laboratory studies and health history. One value is not a stand alone result. There are many factors that effect calcium results.
Factors that effect calcium results: (not an all inclusive list)
The two most common issues following Weight loss Surgery or Duodenal Switch may be albumin level and Vitamin D level. Please see past blogs on Vitamin D. Magnesium may also play a role in a Duodenal Switch patient.
The most common calcium result drawn is the total calcium level. Laboratory results may not explicitly label it as such, however, it measures the calcium that is bound to protein. Ionized calcium is the free calcium that is representative of the true total calcium. Ionized Calcium can be measured by ordering specific lab. Alternatively, the Ionized calcium can be calculated by the following formula: Corrected calcium mg/dL = (0.8 * (Normal Albumin – Pt’s Albumin)) + Serum Ca ) or use the calculator at the bottom of this post.
The low Albumin level accounts for the low calcium level. This may be the reason for a patient with a low albumin/protein level, also having their calcium level reported as low. However, when adjusted for the protein deficiency the corrected calcium comes into normal range. Video of Trouseau’s sign of a patient with calcium deficiency.
The first step in a patient who has low calcium reported, is to make sure their protein and albumin levels are normal, along with Vitamin D.
Calcium levels are managed by two processes major regularly hormones and influencing hormones. Controlling or major regulatory hormones include PTH, calcitonin, and vitamin D. In the kidney, vitamin D and PTH stimulate the activity of the epithelial calcium channel and the calcium-binding protein (ie, calbindin) to increase calcium absorption. Influencing hormones include thyroid hormones, growth hormone, and adrenal and gonadal steroids.
Corrected calcium = 0.8 * (4.0 – serum albumin) + serum calcium
Corrected Calcium Level Calculator
We are all aware of the arterial and venous systems. Arteries take the oxygenated blood from the heart to the organs and the veins take the blood back to the lungs to unload the carbon dioxide and reload oxygen to be taken back to the organs. In addition to the arterial and venous vascular systems, we also have the lymphatic channels that flow into the lymphatic system.
The Lymphatic channels and system may be new to some, however, it is the third vascular network that is much less defined. The Lymphatic system collects fluids that has left the artierial/venous vascular system along their travel outlined above and take it back to the venous system. The lymphatic vessels transport this fluid to the lymph nodes throughout the body where the nodes filter the fluid of bacteria and harmful substances. Eventually, the fluid makes it way back to the venous system via the Superior Vena Cava. Additionally, Lymphatics collect the lipids within the GI tract and transport them to the venous system for metabolism. Most of the time these serosal lymphatic vessels are very small and hard to notice on the bowel.
Example of Lymphatic channels
The following image is in a patient who had small bowel obstruction. The obstruction had resulted in vascular congestion at the base of the mesentery. The congestion had effected the low pressure system of the veins and the lymphatics disproportionately more that the arterial system. The white-milky tubular structures are the lymphatic channels filled with lipids.
There are three layers to the small intestinal lymphatic system, in the villi, submucosal and serosal layers and has the unique ability to transport absorbed intra-lumenal nutrients. There is a need for further research in the areas of health, obesity and disease in regards to the lymphatic system.
Liver is a vital organ. It has many roles in the physiologic pathways including protein productions, clotting function, iron metabolism, production of bile and cholesterol, etc. as well as metabolism and filtering of waste products. We should think of it as a refinery, for conversion of raw material from food to energy used by our body, in addition to a processing and distribution center for mineral, and nutrients. Liver injury can have devistating effects and long term ramifications if unchecked.
Liver is also very resilient and forgiving to stressors and injury. The liver will tolerate repeated insults caused by Medication (both prescription and over the counter) , obesity, Diabetes, alcohol, and herbal supplements, to name a few, but only if care is taken and the offending stressor is removed. During the injury phase, however, the liver may have a difficult time keeping up with bodily function needs due to loss of fully function cells.
The anatomy of liver can change from normal (both visually to the naked eye and under microscope) to mild inflammation and reverse back to normal if the underlying causes of injury are removed. IF, however, the anatomy of the liver changes with fibrosis, it crosses to an irreversible range where it can only be prevented from progressing rather than reversing.
A normal liver is soft, smooth, shinny with well defined edges. As liver injury sets in, it develops “cobble stone” characteristics with loss of well defined edges and becomes hard. Obesity is a risk factor for this type of liver injury. So are some of the medications that patients take for diabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride, pain medications.
In the obese population, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) causes inflammation and a slow diminishing functionality of the liver. NAFLD is the leading cause of liver disease in the U.S. Unchecked or untreated NAFLD can progress to NASH (Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis. NAFLD or “fatty” liver disease is an accumulation of fat within the liver. NASH is a progression that can lead to inflammation of the liver cells or advance to fibrosis and cirrhosis. In addition to liver injury, there is some evidence that NAFLD also correlates with cardiovascular disease.
Causes of NAFLD:
- Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms may include fatigue, right upper quadrant pain, liver enzyme elevation
During bariatric or weight loss surgery we visualize and occasionally biopsy the liver to define the degree of injury, if identified. Following weight loss surgical procedure a rise in liver function enzymes may be expected due to the processing of waste products following fat mass loss. However, long term bariatric procedures can significantly improve NAFLD and NASH. Bariatric procedure require the adherence to protein and supplement requirements as well as regular physician visits. Past blog of liver disease.