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.
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.
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
The 2015 ASMBS meeting was held November 2-6, 2015. It was combined with TOS (The Obesity Society) and had more than 5,600 attendees from all over the world in every aspect of obesity treatment. There were some interesting additions and deletions from this meeting compared to the past.
The one sentence that comes to my mind is “I told you so”.
One important addition was a DS course for Surgeons and Allied Health. This was very exciting, except the content and questions seemed to gravitate to SADI/SIPS/Loop rather than DS. Dr. Cottam was one of the moderators of the course. It seems that they have found the value in preserving the pyloric valve. It was clear that the discussion was driven by the need to come legitimize the single anastomosis procedures at this early stage with almost no data to prove long term outcome. With many of the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomies having re-gain and the they are looking for a surgery that the “masses” can perform. This was actually the term used by one of the presenters, implying that the duodenal switch needed to be simplified so that all surgeons, those who have pushed all other procedures can not offer Duodenal Switch to their patients with less than desirable outcome. Several surgeons also voiced their concern and dissatisfaction with the issues and complication of the RNY and want an alternative. There was much discussion regarding SADI/SIPS/Loop being investigational and that it shouldn’t be as it is a Sleeve Gastrectomy with a Billroth II. Dr. Roslin and Dr. Cottam discussed their SIPS nomenclature saying they wanted to stay away from something that had Ileostomy, suggesting bowel issues, or the word “SAD”i due to negative connotations. The point to be made is that the SADI and SIPS and the loop are all the same. I have also noticed other surgeons using SADS (Single Anastomosis Duodenal Switch). There is a great deal of industry behind these procedures and many surgeons being trained in courses funded by industry. One surgeon stood up and informed the entire course that they need to be clear with their patients about the surgery they are performing, as he had been in Bariatric chat rooms and there is upset within the community about SADI/SIPS/Loop being toted as “the same or similar to Duodenal Switch”.
There was also presenter who said “We are doing something new about every five years.” No, “we” are not. Some of us have stood by the surgery and techniques with the best long term outcomes and not gone with every “new” thing out there. The process of Duodenal Switch may have changes, open Vs. Lap, drains, location of incisions, post operative care and stay, but the tested procedure with the best outcome has been the duodenal switch operation and not the shortcut versions. Although, those of us that are standing by long term results seems to be in the minority. Why do I stand by Duodenal Switch? Because it works, when done correctly by making the length of the bowel proportional to the patient total bowel length, and height, and not just cookie cutter length for all patients, with the right follow-up, patient education, vitamin and mineral regime and eating habits.
A new addition was the Gastric Balloon, which in the research presented had a 60-70% re-gain rate and a no more than 10-15% weight loss one year only. This data represents more than 70% weight regain when the balloon is taken out. The Gastric Balloons can be left in between 4-6 months depending on the brand or type of balloon. The Gastric Balloon is not new to the Bariatrics and was first introduced in 1985. After 20 years and 3,608 patients the results were and average of 17.6% excess weight loss. It seems that we are re-gurgiating old procedures. There are many new medications that were front and center in this meeting.
The Adjustable Gastric Bands were missing from the exhibit hall this year. It is my hope and feeling from the other attendees that we may be seeing the era of the Adjustable Gastric Band being placed in patients come to an end. Although there are some still holding out that there are some patients that can do well with the Band.
Attending the 2015 ASMBS meeting this year, as it has every year, only reemphasized the importance of avoiding what has become the norm of chasing a simple solution that is fashionable and easy now. We stay convinced that the duodenal switch operation with the common channel and the alimentary length measured as a percentage of the total length is by far the best procedure with the proven track record. The patient should avoid the temptation of settling for an unproven procedure or device, because if history holds true, there will be a need for revision surgeries in the future.
Halloween is the start of temptations during the holiday season and surviving Halloween is possible. It’s a time of high carbohydrate treats that can turn into a nasty trick of regain or slowed weight loss. Halloween is a fun holiday that you can participate in with some foresight and planning. Sugar and simple carbohydrates are easily absorbed and can decrease weight loss or regain. The following are some helpful tips to keep you on track.
- Stay steady with high protein, hydration, vitamins and minerals. Protein and hydration will keep you full and help curb the carb cravings.
- Make you own high protein treats. There are so many great recipes out there.
- If you give out candy don’t buy candy that you like. In fact, do the opposite and buy candy you dislike.
- Don’t give out candy at all. Instead opt to do a non-candy type item, stickers, pencils, rings, trinkets, easers, small coloring books, or other small items.
- Keep a list of your goals posted in a visible place.
- Make a picture collage of your goals, achievements you want, and non-scale victories you’d like to achieve posted in a high visibility location.
Stay strong and avoid the pitfalls of temptation.
Whenever there is a bowel resection with anastomosis made there will be a defect in the mesentery (the tissue that holds the blood supply and the nerves etc going to and from the bowel) that needs to be closed. In this particular case, the stitches that were used to close the defect were intact and yet the tissue had separated from it. The result is an internal hernia. This can cause bowel obstruction, where by a loop of the bowel can go through the defect and kink the bowel causing the blockage. In some cases, the internal hernia may reduce itself with intermittent symptoms of the bowel obstruction and in other cases it may require immediate emergent surgery. A CAT scan with oral and IV contrast is needed after Duodenal Switch to visualize the alimentary and bioliopancreatic limbs.
Symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal tenderness
- cramping abdominal pain
- diarrhea, constipation
- feeling of inability to completely empty bowels
- severe abdominal pain.