Many Australians are struggling with their weight, and statistics tell us that as a nation we are facing an obesity epidemic. Weight-loss surgeries, like lap-band or gastric sleave procedures, are often seen as a solution for a growing number of people.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research tells us that in 2007/08 nearly 17,000 Australians had weight-loss surgery – a massive increase from the 500 operations performed in 1998/99.
While weight loss surgeries are very common, if you’re considering this kind of surgery, it’s important that you are aware of the risks and think through whether this is the right path for you.
Of those 17,000 Australian patients that I just mentioned, 12 per cent – that’s 2,040 people – reported complications after the surgery.
As a medical lawyer, I represent a number of these people who have sustained permanent and life-changing injuries as a result of the complications of weight loss surgery.
And a growing number of patients are approaching our firm to find out their post-operative legal rights. In fact, we receive 10 times as many calls now than we did a decade ago from patients querying their legal options after what they believe are sub-standard surgery results.
These types of procedures can be effective weight-loss methods, but with so many people suffering complications and requiring revision surgery, it can be a pretty risky procedure.
There are a number of complications related to weight-loss surgery including leakage around stomach staples, infections at the wound site or internally, and it’s also possible for lap-bands to slip, snap or be placed in the wrong position.
Patients can be left with ongoing pain, they could experience dramatic and life threatening weight loss especially after an inability to eat anything, and sometimes they can experience no weight loss at all.
So while we know that many thousands of Australian patients are very happy with their outcomes, things can go wrong, and it’s vital to know the risks involved.
If you’re considering weight loss surgery, I encourage you to check your surgeon’s qualifications as well as the reputation of the relevant hospital, and it may also help to speak with others who have had that type of surgery.
You can check your surgeon's credentials and history of complaints at www.ahpra.gov.au. Complaints about a doctor's performance or conduct can be lodged with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) or the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office.