Bariatric Surgery Risks and Complications: Lisa Marie Presley’s Death Highlights the Importance of Awareness

Experts Highlight Safety of Bariatric Surgery following Lisa Marie Presley’s Death

The recent revelation that Lisa Marie Presley died from a small bowel obstruction has brought attention to the risks and complications associated with bariatric surgery. The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office determined that adhesions, or scar tissue buildups, caused the obstruction in Presley’s case. Bariatric surgery is a treatment for severe obesity that induces weight loss by modifying the stomach or small intestine to reduce food intake. Although Presley’s death raises concerns, experts emphasize that bariatric surgery is generally safe.

Research indicates that the long-term risk of death associated with bariatric surgery is minimal, with a short-term risk of death estimated to be less than 1 in 1,000, according to a study based on data from several million patients. Dr. Marina Kurian, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, asserts that the risks of complications, such as those experienced by Presley, are very low. Dr. Ali Aminian, director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, estimates that only about 3% of bariatric surgery patients experience long-term complications, with malnutrition being the leading risk. The risk of developing long-term bowel obstruction for all types of abdominal surgeries is about 1% or 2%.

Improved surgical techniques in recent years have contributed to enhanced safety in bariatric surgery procedures. Advances in aligning and connecting the bowel have reduced the risk of scar formation, making the procedure much safer than a decade ago. While scar tissue is typically harmless, it can sometimes lead to bowel obstructions or twists, causing health problems. Symptoms of obstruction include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Patients experiencing these signs are advised to seek medical attention, as the issue may require surgery to address the scar tissue or remove the affected part of the intestine.

Presley had complained of abdominal pain leading up to her death, and her autopsy report revealed the presence of the painkiller oxycodone in her blood, among other substances. However, these substances did not contribute to her demise. Kurian suggests that opioids can sometimes mask symptoms, emphasizing that individuals experiencing abdominal pain after abdominal surgery should seek evaluation.

Despite the rare risks and complications associated with bariatric surgery, it remains a beneficial option for many patients. The surgery can lead to improved health outcomes by reducing the risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and cancer. Previous research has even found that bariatric surgery can increase life expectancy by up to six years for individuals with obesity.

In 2021, bariatric surgery was performed over 260,000 times in the United States alone. Gastric sleeve surgery, accounting for more than half of the procedures that year, involves removing about 80% of the stomach. Other procedures, such as gastric band surgery and duodenal switch surgery, also offer weight loss solutions.

The circumstances surrounding Lisa Marie Presley’s death have drawn attention to the risks and complications of bariatric surgery. However, experts emphasize the overall safety of the procedure. The improvements in surgical techniques have significantly reduced the risks posed by scar tissue and bowel obstructions. Ultimately, the benefits of bariatric surgery, including improved overall health outcomes, outweigh the risks associated with the procedure.