Working yesterday and today on a very tragic case for the family of a young women who died after weight-loss surgery, in 2007.

The women underwent a sleeve gastrectomy, one of the 2 most common forms of weight-loss (or bariatric) surgery, performed in Australia today.

While working on the case, I thought it worth sharing the advice we have recieved in recent cases, as to both the success + the risks associated with these 2 most common forms of surgery. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you disagree with these figures, which are taken from expert advice from a very experienced bariatric surgeon we have asked to consider such cases:

This is the most common procedure. Completed over 11,000 times in Australia per annum.

average effectiveness: 50% of the excess weight carried by the patient (on average patients lose 1/2 the weight they wish to). Effectiveness does vary significantly.

risks: 0.1 – 0.5% of major complication risk. So 1 in every 200 patients to 1 in every 1,000 patients will experience this. From simple maths, each year, 11 – 55 patients will suffer such major complications in Australia from this procedure. 1 in 2,000 risk of death: so 5 – 6 patients per year will die from lap band surgery.

average effectiveness
: 70% of the excess weight carried by the patient (on average, patients lose 70% of the weight they wish to: this is obviously an advantage of such surgery over lap banding).

risks: 2 – 5% major complication risk. Risk of major complication therefore up to 50 times higher than with lap band. Most common major complication, as in our case, is anastomotic leak (leak from the staple line where the ‘new’ stomach edge is sewn up). Mortality rate is 1 in 500-600. So about 4 times higher chance of death.


Interesting features of this are, in my view:

  • the fact such surgery, if successful, should be accepted as only assisting with weight loss. It will not on its own be a ‘quick fix’ to obesity issues. With lap bands, the morbidly obese will remain obese even if such surgery is effective.
  • the lap band is safer but less effective than a sleeve gastrectomy.
  • patients undergoing such surgery need to appreciate and be comfortable with taking the risks, including a clear risk of death associated with such surgery. This should be particularly borne in mind, when such bariatric surgery is for cosmetic reasons, rather than genuinely medically driven. For someone to undergo such surgery, with the aim of becoming ‘thinner,’ and then lose their life through such process is tragic, and yet from the above such risk is clear + should be recognised and considered by the patient, before they agree to proceed.