Weight-loss surgeries can be a lifesaver for obese people who can’t fight their food cravings, but the treatments have deadly consequences when they go wrong.
It was revealed last week that Lisa Marie Presley’s death in January was the result of an injury she sustained several years earlier after bariatric surgery.
The general term is used to describe procedures that shrink the stomach and reduce the calories a person needs to eat before feeling full.
Presley died of a blockage in your small intestine caused by a buildup of scar tissue that essentially prevented your body from absorbing nutrients or digesting food.
The nature of his death was shocking to many, but it’s not entirely unique. Barely one in five Weight loss surgery patients can expect life-threatening complications.
A Mississippi native and mother of three, Markita ‘Kiki’ McIntyre went to Tijuana for gastric sleeve surgery, but she didn’t make it home.
McIntyre [shown], a makeup artist, did her homework, talked to the experts and asked all the right questions before the procedure, according to her friend Francesca Moultrie. Moultrie initially planned to have the same surgery, but ultimately she changed her mind.
Fatal complications from bariatric surgery are usually rare, with around one in 1,000 people dying each year after undergoing the operations.
But that risk is markedly increased for a patient undergoing surgery in poor clinics.
Markita ‘Kiki’ McIntyre of Biloxi, Mississippi, died on a Tijuana operating table in May 2021 while undergoing gastric sleeve surgery.
What is a strangled intestine?
What is a strangled intestine?
A strangulated bowel is a type of small bowel obstruction that cuts off the blood supply to the intestine.
It usually occurs when part of the intestine becomes trapped in an abnormal opening.
Gangrene, a serious condition in which loss of blood supply leads to death of body tissue, can develop in as little as six hours.
As a result, the intestinal wall dies, which can lead to rupture, infection, and in severe cases, death.
In the case of Lisa Marie Presley, the strangled intestine was caused by adhesions, areas of scar tissue that stick together and can obstruct the intestine.
The adhesions developed after bariatric surgery, a weight loss procedure, years earlier.
The 34-year-old mother of three was one of the growing victims of medical tourism, a phenomenon that sees Americans travel abroad for medical procedures like weight loss and plastic surgeries where they are a fraction of the cost.
Without any insurance to cushion the financial hit, bariatric surgery can cost up to $30,000 in the US, while in Mexico, the price is much more feasible, between $5,000 and $8,000.
Just a few years before Ms. McIntyre’s ill-fated trip to Mexico, Idaho native Justine Rodriguez had decided to undergo the same sleeve procedure in Tijuana as well.
With £387 and a recent denial letter from her health insurance cover, Ms Rodriguez was desperate. Like many Americans, she went to Mexico.
While he survived, he spent weeks in hospitals and nearly two years with feeding tubes, has epilepsy and has seizures, is in constant pain, can’t eat most foods and has to take more than a dozen pills a day. He also owes the University of Utah Health about a million dollars for saving his life.
She said in 2019 that the reduced-fee surgery was not worth it for her health or the pain the experience has inflicted on her loved ones: “The problems I have now are not worth going to Mexico to have that surgery.” .
Bariatric surgery is an all-encompassing term for weight loss surgeries that work by altering the anatomy of the digestive tract in some way, such as removing around 80 percent of the stomach. to leave a new stomach in the shape of a tube or ‘sleeve’.
The procedure, which severely limits the amount of food a person can eat before feeling full, is appropriately known as a gastric sleeve.
Another common bariatric procedure is the gastric bypass in which a surgeon creates a small pouch at the top of the patient’s stomach and attaches a section of the small intestine to it, limiting the amount of food they can eat and therefore restricting calories.
The surgeries are considered the gold standard when it comes to weight loss surgery with up to a 90 percent success rate in helping people lose unhealthy pounds, and has even been approved for use in children up to 14 years old.
Justine Rodríguez went to Tijuana in 2016 to undergo the same operation as Ms. McIntyre, a gastric sleeve, but the operation left her with a massive abscess in her abdomen. She required a feeding tube for about two years and still suffers from epilepsy, a possible side effect of the lack of oxygen during the operation.
But surgeries can have tragic consequences resulting in severe pain, abscesses in the abdomen, organ damage, or malnutrition if performed poorly or by an unlicensed physician.
Improper technique can damage healthy blood vessels in the abdomen where the surgery is being performed, which could cause severe bleeding. And doctors who staple the incisions incorrectly can cause inadvertent leaks where the stomach has been divided, leading to infection.
Bariatric surgeries are often successful, which in this case means that the patient has been able to get rid of around 50 percent of the excess weight accumulated on their body.
Kelly Osbourne was one such success story, as she admitted to having a gastric sleeve procedure in 2018, which allowed her to lose an extra 85 pounds. She is delighted with the results and has said that having the surgery was “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
But when complications do occur, the consequences can be deadly.
Ms. McIntyre, make-up artist, was attracted to mexico due to the hefty discount, though he still did his homework before signing up for surgery to make sure he went to a safe clinic with qualified doctors.
What happened after Ms. McIntyre arrived in Mexico is somewhat of a mystery, according to her friend Francesca Moultrie, who initially planned to have the same surgery but ultimately changed her mind.
Ms. Moultrie had been in regular contact with her friend, checking in often to make sure everything was going well. Moultrie said that she “asked how she was doing and she said she was fine.”
Ms Moultrie said: ‘I had posted something on Facebook and she laughed about it. I was going to talk to her after the surgery around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.
At 5:00 pm, without having heard from her friend, Mrs. Moultrie received the devastating news from KiKi’s husband: she was unresponsive during the procedure and died on the table, an extremely rare event in bariatric surgery.
It is not clear what specifically about the surgery proved fatal, but several negative events are possible.
Excessive bleeding during or after a procedure because the surgeon improperly seals or staples the blood vessels shut. The staple line can also leak, leading to a potentially fatal infection.
Ms. Rodríguez ended up needing extensive medical attention to repair the damage done in Mexico, including several surgeries. Although she is now better, she has been crushed by a medical debt, about a million dollars.
Ms. Rodríguez traveled to Tijuana with her mother in 2016 to undergo the procedure. Follow-up care was minimal, and her surgeon advised her to contact her with any complications or questions via email. But she didn’t even know what complications to look for.
About a week after surgery and back in Idaho, Ms. Rodriguez said her doctors found a massive abscess in her abdomen that required more than one surgery to fix.
Mrs. Rodriguez saying: ‘They did another surgery to try to clear it, but they couldn’t because it was rock solid, like cement.’
And these are not isolated incidents. The internet is peppered with horror stories of people undergoing the surgery in the US and abroad. Some have suffered from malnutrition from being unable to keep food down, hair loss, weakened bones, scar tissue buildup, and gallbladder damage.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a gastric sleeve patient nicknamed NI saw her weight drop as expected in the first month post-op, but she soon began having trouble eating and drinking, as well as extreme nausea that prevented her from nourishing herself. her own for a week.
In the emergency department, she was hospitalized for malnutrition, potassium and magnesium deficiency, and dehydration. About a week later, the doctors had to remove his gallbladder. A second week-long hospitalization showed fluid buildup at the surgical site, but NI said she received no treatment for it.
She said: ‘I’ve been home from the hospital for a week and a few days and my body is still numb. I am not affected by walking, but I do get night sweats on my legs only at night. I’m scared and I don’t know what’s happening.
“I am afraid and I feel that if I do not control this, I could lose my life. I tried some soup today, but I only had 4 sips. Before he could eat much more. I can’t eat anything now. Just drink.