When Bariatric Surgery causes problems

Saturday 23rd January 2010

The recent progression of bariatric surgery; a surgical technique that aids obese patients to lose weight by implementing their stomachs with a band, staple and so on, has led to a worrying amount of claims made to the Medical Defence Union and harsh questions as to who “qualifies” for the surgery. It is thought that some obese patients are trying to gain weight to enable themselves to qualify for the surgery, but with a worrying number of patients claiming for compensation after their surgeries, it is clear the right solution for obesity hasn’t been found with bariatric surgery as of yet.

The cases that appear to be causing the majority of the Medical Defence Union’s claims are those recent surgeries that involve the stomach being bypassed or banded to aid weight loss. Therefore, the MDU have released a number of common factors involved in these cases in the hope that surgeons will learn from these mistakes/side-effects and rid themselves of any compensation claims. Common issues appear to be bands slipping, post-operative infections and numerous other complications arising after the surgery. In most cases they aren’t life-threatening but there have been a couple of cases that have led to severe complications for the patients and at least one person is thought to have died due to one of these complications.

With the average cost of compensation claims that actually make it through the courts being anywhere from £2,500 to £500,000 it is strikingly clear why the MDU are doing the best they can to raise surgeons awareness of these side-effects. They offer advice to surgeons such as; documentation of the consent of the patient, adequate training for the surgeons and nurses involved, that the procedure and side-effects are thoroughly explained in an understandable manner to the patient pre-op, and so on. Additionally, the raising of the weight thresholds in many regions to reduce the number of operations that can be carried out by the NHS in a bid to save costs seems to have back-fired. Patients are now putting their bodies under more strain by gaining weight in order to qualify for the surgery. Overall, it does suggest more guidelines need introducing with regards to this surgery, alongside a healthier and more efficient threshold and a better compliance with health and safety guidelines.

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