AGA Clinical Practice Update

Managing Early Complications After Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery

Will Pass

July 12, 2021

The American Gastroenterological Association recently published a clinical practice update concerning endoscopic evaluation and management of early complications after bariatric/metabolic surgery.

The seven best practice advice statements, based on available evidence and expert opinion, range from a general call for high familiarity with available interventions to specific approaches for managing postoperative leaks.

According to lead author Vivek Kumbhari, MD, PhD, director of advanced endoscopy, department of gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla., and colleagues, the update was written in consideration of increasing rates of bariatric/metabolic surgery.

"Bariatric/metabolic surgery is unmatched with respect to its weight loss and metabolic benefits," the investigators wrote in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. "The selection criteria will continue to broaden, likely resulting in increasing numbers of less robust patients undergoing surgery (e.g., children, elderly, and those with significant cardiorespiratory comorbidities)."

Although the 90-day overall complication rate across all patients undergoing bariatric/metabolic surgery is only 4%, Kumbhari and colleagues noted that this rate is considerably higher, at 20.1%, among patients aged older than 65 years.

"As utilization escalates, so will the number of patients who suffer early complications," they wrote.

The first three items of best practice advice describe who should be managing complications after bariatric/metabolic surgery, and how.

Foremost, Kumbhari and colleagues called for a multidisciplinary approach; they suggested that endoscopists should work closely with related specialists, such as bariatric/metabolic surgeons and interventional radiologists.

"Timely communication between the endoscopist, radiologist, surgeon, nutritionists, and inpatient medical team or primary care physician will result in efficient, effective care with prompt escalation and deescalation," they wrote. "Daily communication is advised."

The next two best practice advice statements encourage high familiarity with endoscopic treatments, postsurgical anatomy, interventional radiology, and surgical interventions, including risks and benefits of each approach.

"The endoscopist should ... have expertise in interventional endoscopy techniques, including but not limited to using concomitant fluoroscopy, stent deployment and retrieval, pneumatic balloon dilation, incisional therapies, endoscopic suturing, and managing percutaneous drains," the investigators wrote. "Having the ability to perform a wide array of therapies will enhance the likelihood that the optimal endoscopic strategy will be employed, as opposed to simply performing a technique with which the endoscopist has experience."

Following these best practices, Kumbhari and colleagues advised screening patients with postoperative complications for comorbidities, both medical in nature (such as infection) and psychological.

"Patients often have higher depression and anxiety scores, as well as a lower physical quality of life, and medical teams sometimes neglect the patient's psychological state," they wrote. "It is imperative that the multidisciplinary team recognize and acknowledge the patient's psychological comorbidities and engage expertise to manage them."

Next, the investigators advised that endoscopic intervention should be considered regardless of time interval since surgery, including the immediate postoperative period.

"Endoscopy is often indicated as the initial therapeutic modality, and it can safely be performed," Kumbhari and colleagues wrote. "When endoscopy is performed, it is advised to use carbon dioxide for insufflation. Caution should be used when advancing the endoscope into the small bowel, as it is best to minimize pressure along the fresh staple lines. In cases in which the patient is critically ill or the interventional endoscopist does not have extensive experience with such a scenario, the endoscopy should be performed in the operating room with a surgeon present (preferably the surgeon who performed the operation)."

Kumbhari and colleagues discussed functional stenosis, which can precipitate and propagate leaks. They noted that "downstream stenosis is frequently seen at the level of the incisura angularis or in the proximal stomach when a sleeve gastrectomy is performed in a patient with a prior laparoscopic adjustable gastric band."

To address stenosis, the update calls for "aggressive dilation" using a large pneumatic balloon, preferably with fluoroscopy to make sure the distal end of the balloon does not cross the pylorus. The investigators noted that endoscopic suturing may be needed if a tear involving the muscularis propria is encountered.

Lastly, the clinical practice update offers comprehensive guidance for managing staple-line leaks, which "most commonly occur along the staple line of the proximal stomach."

As leaks are thought to stem from ischemia, "most leaks are not present upon completion of the operation, and they develop over the subsequent weeks, often in the setting of downstream stenosis," the investigators wrote.

To guide management of staple-line leaks, the investigators presented a treatment algorithm that incorporates defect size, time since surgery, and presence or absence of stenosis.

For example, a defect smaller than 10 mm occurring within 6 weeks of surgery and lacking stenosis may be managed with a percutaneous drain and diversion. In contrast, a defect of similar size, also without stenosis, but occurring later than 6 weeks after the initial procedure, should be managed with endoscopic internal drainage or vacuum therapy.

"Clinicians should recognize that the goal for endoscopic management of staple-line leaks is often not necessarily initial closure of the leak site, but rather techniques to promote drainage of material from the perigastric collection into the gastric lumen such that the leak site closes by secondary intention," wrote Kumbhari and colleagues.

The clinical practice update was commissioned and approved by the AGA Institute Clinical Practice Updates Committee and the AGA Governing Board. The investigators disclosed relationships with Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Apollo Endosurgery, and others.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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