Adhesions are fibrous bands of scar tissue that form during the healing process. Following surgery, many people live normally with this scar tissue. However, they are also the cause of bowel obstruction when the adhesions form in such a way that causes a segment of the bowel to either get trapped, or form a “knot”. In both of those cases, the end result is a partial narrowing or a complete blockage of the intestines. This is called bowel obstruction.
Without treatment, the blocked parts of the intestine can die, leading to serious issues. However, with prompt medical care, intestinal obstruction often can be successfully treated.
Other causes of bowel obstruction:
- In children, the most common cause of intestinal obstruction is telescoping of the intestine (intussusception).
- Intussusception telescoping of the interstine
- Hernias — portions of intestine that protrude into another part of your body
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease
- Diverticulitis — a condition in which small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in the digestive tract become inflamed or infected
- Twisting of the colon (volvulus)
- Impacted feces
- Colon Cancer
In patients who haven’t Bariatric / weight loss surgery or an untouched GI track, bowel obstruction may manifest itself by symptoms of loss of appetite, constipation, nausea, vomiting, enlarged abdomen, abdominal pain, cramping, with no passage of gas or bowel movements.
However, patients who have had a weight loss surgery (Duodenal Switch, or the Gastric Bypass) because of the parallel limbs of the small bowel, the symptoms outlined above may not present. The diagnosis of a bowel obstruction, when suspected, should be identified with CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis with Oral and IV contrast. A CT scan with no oral contrast or water instead of oral contrast is inadequate and may lead to a delay in diagnosis and surgical intervention. Examples of Bowel Obstruction CT findings were discussed previously.
The treatment for an internal hernia and adhesions causing a bowel obstruction depending on the severity may range from observation to surgical intervention in order to release the small bowel from the constraints of the adhesions.
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 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.
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
New FDA regulations for compounding pharmacies has spurred changes in our pricing and ability to provide injectable Vitamin A and Vitamin D. The compounding pharmacies are no longer compounding injectable Vitamin A and there is a nationwide shortage of the national brand of injectable Vitamin A. We have a tentative date of February 2018 when we may be able to obtain injectable Vitamin A. We won’t be able to quote pricing on Vitamin A injections until we are able to orders.
We are able to obtain and supply our patients with injectable Vitamin D but with a price increase.
The following is the letter we received from our compounding pharmacy.
“The healthcare industry has continuously undergone changes in regulations and legislation. The compounding industry is no exception and has faced rigorous regulatory requirements this past year such as new testing specifications and compliance standards.
We are set on facing these demanding challenges by meeting and exceeding these new regulatory requirements. We want to assure you we will continue to provide the best products on the market for you and your patients. Quality and safety remain a top priority. We understand that our pharmacy plays a vital role in providing care to your patients. The increase in pricing is a reflection of the additional cost in producing and testing the product based on regulatory specifications.”
Unfortunately, we have been informed that the company we order our Vitamin A injections from will no longer have Vitamin A available. We have contacted several other companies and they also do not have it available. The manufacturer of Vitamin A states that there is a nationwide shortage of injectable Vitamin A and it may be available next year.
Our office has a few vials left and we are hoping that we can get to as many people as possible before we are completely out. We will continue to look for a source of Vitamin A injections. We will let you know when it is no longer available and when we receive a new shipment. Thank you for your understanding and we apologize for this issue.
Information on Vitamin A deficiency here.
You can find our list of recommended supplements here.
Just as a reminder, we have no financial interest in any of the vendors that are recommended on our website. Also, please note that this is not in ANY form or fashion a substitute for the evaluation by your surgeon or primary care physician. This is informational only and is not to be taken as a recommendation for any patients’ condition.
We have received notice that the FDA and the compounding pharmacy have changed their regulations for several medications. Unfortunately, this affects our office and Duodenal Switch patients in regards to injectable Vitamin D and Vitamin A. In the past, we have been able to have injectable Vitamin A and injectable Vitamin D in bulk in our office. The new regulations require that a patient be assigned to the medication, so we will be unable to have it on hand in our office. This is out of our hands and control.
We are requesting that if you are anticipating the need for injectable vitamins that you have your laboratory results in our office at least 3 weeks prior to your office visit. This will give our staff adequate time to order your injectable vitamins to be available at your visit.
Injectable Vitamin D may be needed in some cases of Vitamin D deficiency or inability to increase Vitamin D level with oral supplements. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. It plays an important role in bone metabolism and structure. It has also been found to affect the immune regulation, control off- inflammatory reactions, and also be involved in a number of broad cellular functions throughout the body.
Research and information regarding Injectable Vitamin D.
Thank you for your understanding in this manner.