Approximately 1-2% of all Gastric Bypass patients will develop an internal hernia or intestinal obstruction at some point after the surgery. An internal hernia occurs when the intestines become stuck in a twisted position. While this sounds very concerning, this is rarely a life threatening condition and often is present for months before a diagnosis is made. In a small percentage of cases, this can be life threatening and should be treated as an emergency.
Internal Hernias can be fixed by an experienced bariatric surgeon who can perform a laparoscopic procedure that usually requires a one night stay in the hospital. Other, non-bariatric surgeons and gastroenterologists struggle to make this diagnosis and provide minimally invasive treatment because it requires a solid understanding of gastric bypass anatomy. For this reason, it is critical that you see a bariatric surgeon if you have significant abdominal pain, even if you are many years out from your surgery. A fraction of these patients develop internal hernias or intestinal obstructions that cannot be treated laparoscopically and require a traditional, open surgery to repair. These patients have a much longer recovery and often take three full months until they are back to their baseline.