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Original Article |

Morbidity of Anastomotic Leaks in Patients Undergoing Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass FREE

Taghreed Almahmeed, MD, FRCSC; Rodrigo Gonzalez, MD; Lana G. Nelson, DO, MPH; Krista Haines, MABMH; Scott F. Gallagher, MD; Michel M. Murr, MD
[+] Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Surgery, University of South Florida Health Sciences Center, Tampa.


Arch Surg. 2007;142(10):954-957. doi:10.1001/archsurg.142.10.954.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Objective  To document the effect of anastomotic leaks on morbidity and mortality after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) for obesity.

Design  Prospectively collected data on 840 consecutive patients who underwent RYGB between 1998 and 2005. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to determine the effect of anastomotic leaks on postoperative morbidity independent of sex, age, preoperative body mass index, access (open vs laparoscopic), calendar year of RYGB, and comorbidities. P < .05 was considered significant.

Results  A total of 36 patients (4.3%) developed leaks after RYGB. Patients who developed anastomotic leaks had a significantly higher overall complication rate (61% vs 20%, P < .001), mortality (14% vs 4%, P = .01), and duration of hospital stay (24.5 vs 4.5 days, P < .001) compared with patients who did not develop leaks. In a multivariate logistic regression model, anastomotic leaks increased the likelihood of mortality (odds ratio [OR], 15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3-80; P = .002) and overall complications (OR, 6; 95% CI, 3-13; P < .001), specifically sepsis (OR, 27; 95% CI, 2-472; P = .02), renal failure (OR, 16; 95% CI, 3-99; P = .003), small-bowel obstruction (OR, 11; 95% CI, 2-68; P = .008), internal hernia (OR, 10; 95% CI, 2-51; P = .008), thromboembolism (OR, 9; 95% CI, 3-27; P < .001), and incisional hernia (OR, 5; 95% CI, 2-13; P = .001).

Conclusions  Anastomotic leaks significantly increase the likelihood of developing additional life-threatening complications after RYGB. Close and aggressive monitoring is recommended for early detection and management of added complications, should they occur.

One of the most serious complications of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) is an anastomotic leak, which is reported to occur in up to 5.6% of RYGB procedures.1,2 A recently published study of laparoscopic RYGB and open RYGB identified older and heavier male patients with multiple comorbid conditions as being at increased risk for developing anastomotic leaks and subsequent mortality.2

Anastomotic leaks after RYGB are difficult to detect because the associated symptoms may be subtle and nonspecific3 and because routine postoperative upper gastrointestinal series have a low yield4 but may detect small leaks in otherwise asymptomatic patients.5

In addition to anastomotic leaks, patients undergoing RYGB (laparoscopic vs open RYGB, respectively) can develop a host of other systemic and life-threatening complications, such as pulmonary embolism (0.4% vs 0.8%), bowel obstruction (2.9% vs 2.1%), gastrointestinal bleeding (1.9% vs 0.6%), wound infection (2.9% vs 6.6%), stomal stenosis (4.7% vs 0.7%), ventral hernias (0.5% vs 8.6%), pneumonia (0.1% vs 0.3%), and death (0.2% vs 0.9%).6 Given the gravity of these complications, and because of the ensuing systemic inflammatory response in patients with anastomotic leaks, we hypothesized that the likelihood of developing major complications is increased in patients with anastomotic leaks after RYGB.

This study was approved by the institutional review board of the University of South Florida College of Medicine. Prospectively collected data on all consecutive patients who underwent primary or revisional RYGB at Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, Florida, from 1998 to 2005 were analyzed. Patient demographics, comorbidities, hospital course, and outcomes were evaluated.

The incidence of anastomotic leaks was analyzed by demographic factors (sex, age, and preoperative body mass index [BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared]) using the χ2 test. The incidence of added morbidity and mortality, such as small-bowel obstruction, internal hernia, stricture, gastrogastric fistula, enterocutaneous fistula, surgical site infection, incisional hernia, sepsis, bleeding, anastomotic ulcer, thromboembolism, pneumonia, liver failure, respiratory failure, renal failure, nephrolithiasis, and myocardial infarction was compared in patients with and without anastomotic leaks using the Fisher exact test.

The effect of an anastomotic leak on additional morbidity and mortality was evaluated using multivariate logistic regression, controlling for other potential predictors. Evaluated variables included presence of anastomotic leak, age, sex, preoperative BMI, calendar year of RYGB, access (open vs laparoscopic), and individual comorbidities, as listed in Table 1. Forward stepwise variable selection using the likelihood ratio test was completed using 0.05 as the entry criterion and 0.10 as the removal criterion. Statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS (SPSS Inc, Chicago, Illinois).

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 1. Comorbidities Evaluated as Potential Predictors of Added Morbidity After Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass
PATIENT CHARACTERISTICS

Eight hundred forty patients (85% women) underwent open (n = 442) or laparoscopic (n = 398) RYGB. Median age was 45 years (range, 19-70), preoperative weight was 137 kg (range, 50-301), and preoperative BMI was 49 (range, 17-103). Follow-up was complete and up to date in 68% patients; 45% of these patients were in the 6- to 12-month postoperative period. Median follow-up was 11 months (range, 1-75).

INCIDENCE OF ANASTOMOTIC LEAKS

Thirty-six patients (4.3%) developed anastomotic leaks. Mean duration of hospital stay in patients with an anastomotic leak was 24.5 days (95% confidence interval [CI], 15.7-33.4) vs 4.5 days (95% CI, 4.2-4.8) in those patients without an anastomotic leak (P < .001). There was no difference in the incidence of anastomotic leaks among men vs women (6 of 127 vs 30 of 713, P = .81), among patients younger than 45 years vs patients 45 years or older (14 of 417 vs 22 of 423, P = .23), among patients with preoperative BMIs less than 50 vs patients with preoperative BMIs of 50 or greater (18 or 439 vs 18 of 397, P = .87), or among patients who underwent open vs laparoscopic RYGB (P > .05).

MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY OF ANASTOMOTIC LEAKS

The overall incidence of major complications was significantly higher in patients who developed anastomotic leaks compared with those who did not (61% vs 20%, P < .001). Additionally, the overall mortality was 14% in patients who developed anastomotic leaks compared with 4% in patients who did not develop anastomotic leaks (P = .01).

Table 2 lists added morbidity in patients who developed anastomotic leaks. The incidence of surgical site infection, gastrogastric fistulae, sepsis, venous thromboembolic events, internal hernias, small-bowel obstruction, respiratory failure, and renal failure significantly increased in patients who developed anastomotic leaks vs patients who did not (all, P < .05).

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 2. Incidence of Additional Morbidity and Mortality in Patients Who Did and Did Not Develop Anastomotic Leaks
ANASTOMOTIC LEAKS AS PREDICTORS OF ADDED MORBIDITY

The effect of an anastomotic leak on additional morbidity and mortality was assessed using multivariate logistic regression. When adjusted for comorbidities, an anastomotic leak significantly increased the likelihood of mortality (odds ratio [OR], 15; 95% CI, 3-80; P = .002) and other complications (OR, 6; 95% CI, 3 -13; P < .001). Anastomotic leaks were specifically associated with an increased risk of sepsis (OR, 27; 95% CI, 2-473; P = .02), renal failure (OR, 16; 95% CI, 3-99; P = .003), small-bowel obstruction (OR, 11; 95% CI, 2-68; P = .008), internal hernia (OR, 10; 95% CI, 2-51; P = .008), venous thromboembolism (OR, 9; 95% CI, 3-27; P < .001), and incisional hernia (OR, 5; 95% CI, 2-13; P = .001) compared with patients who did not develop anastomotic leaks (Table 3). In this multivariate analysis, the likelihood of anastomotic stricture, gastrogastric fistula, surgical site infection, enterocutaneous fistula, gastrointestinal bleeding, anastomotic ulcer, liver failure, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and myocardial infarction was not increased in patients with an anastomotic leak compared with those without.

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 3. Multivariate Logistic Regression of Anastomotic Leak on Added Morbidity and Mortality After Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

Anastomotic leaks are one of the most dreaded complications of RYGB because of the difficulty in diagnosis, the nonspecificity of clinical presentation, and body weight limitations of radiological diagnostic equipment. The etiology of anastomotic leaks is probably multifactorial. Ischemia, tension, and surgeon's experience are implicated in the pathogenesis of anastomotic leaks after RYGB.1,711

In our study, we identify a greater risk of added morbidity and mortality in patients who develop anastomotic leaks after bariatric operations. We found that patients with anastomotic leaks had significantly increased mortality, surgical site infection, incisional hernia, gastrogastric fistula, sepsis, venous thrombosis and/or pulmonary embolism, small-bowel obstruction, internal hernia, renal failure, and respiratory failure compared with patients who did not develop leaks.

We have adjusted for underlying comorbidities and potential predictors of adverse outcomes, such as age and male sex, using multivariate logistic regression analysis to determine the effect of an anastomotic leak on additional morbidity or mortality. Although our analysis can suggest a potential etiology for the added morbidity, it does not imply causality. For example, while we found that anastomotic leaks are associated with a significantly increased risk of small-bowel obstruction and internal hernia, it is possible that this association is because of anastomotic leaks that were a consequence of internal hernias and small-bowel obstruction in the immediate postoperative period. Nevertheless, these findings are similar to those of a previous study in which we found that anastomotic leaks significantly increased the likelihood of venous thromboembolism.12

Although a recent study identified older and heavier patients with multiple comorbid conditions to be at increased risk of developing anastomotic leaks,2 our study did not confirm these findings. We did not find either male sex or preoperative BMI to be associated with a greater incidence of anastomotic leaks and, additionally, we did not identify any difference in the rates of anastomotic leaks between open and laparoscopic RYGB.

Increased morbidity and mortality as well as reduced survival from anastomotic leaks have been reported in other disease processes. Rizk et al13 studied the effect of anastomotic leaks after esophagogastrectomy for cancer on mortality and medical complications. Anastomotic leaks or technical complications, such as a paralyzed vocal cord or chylothorax, reduced the 3-year survival (31% vs 48%), increased medium duration of hospital stay (23 vs 11 days), increased in-hospital mortality (12% vs 4%), and increased medical complications (78% vs 47%) compared with patients without anastomotic leaks or technical complications. Atkins et al,14 however, reported that an anastomotic leak, though associated with increased risk of mortality after esophagectomy, was not an independent predictor of mortality by multivariate analysis.

Similar results have been reported for anastomotic leaks after colorectal surgery. Higher 30-day mortality (18% vs 4%) and local recurrence rates (19% vs 10%) were reported in patients with anastomotic leaks after a colorectal operation.1517 To our knowledge, our study represents the first report of an increased risk of added morbidity and mortality after anastomotic leaks in patients undergoing RYGB.

One of the limitations of this study, given the multiple hypotheses we tested, is the likelihood that we will find a statistically significant association that has modest clinical significance. Nonetheless, our study highlights the significant adverse implications of an anastomotic leak after bariatric surgery. Additionally, this study does not assess the effect of modality of treatment (operative vs nonoperative) or delay in diagnosis of anastomotic leaks on added morbidity and mortality.

Additional and long-term follow-up data may uncover long-term sequelae of anastomotic leaks, such as additional incisional hernias and anastomotic strictures. Notwithstanding the limitations of this study, these data clearly document the increased likelihood of developing life-threatening complications after RYGB. Hence, these patients should be monitored and treated aggressively, preferably in an intensive care setting.

Specifically, we recommend prophylactic use of inferior vena cava filters in patients who develop anastomotic leaks and end organ failure, which predicts a long intensive care unit stay and immobility. Similarly, we recommend aggressive treatment and resuscitation to avoid prolonged oliguria and renal failure. Incisional hernias are a consequence of sepsis and surgical site infection. We recommend drainage of all infected sites, expeditious application of closed vacuum pumps, and early application of skin grafting to open wounds. Although this study did not find a significant association between anastomotic leaks, strictures, or ulcers, we used upper gastrointestinal contrast studies and endoscopy to investigate mild symptoms of nausea and epigastric pain and inability to tolerate liquid intake in patients who had anastomotic leaks.

Anastomotic leaks are an adverse complication of bariatric surgery because of their added morbidity and mortality. Anastomotic leaks increase the likelihood of life-threatening complications independent of underlying comorbidities. Aggressive and close monitoring is recommended for early detection and management of added complications should they occur.

Correspondence: Michel M. Murr, MD, University of South Florida, Tampa General Hospital, PO Box 1289, Tampa, FL 33601 (mmurr@health.usf.edu).

Accepted for Publication: December 22, 2006.

Author Contributions:Study concept and design: Gonzalez and Murr. Acquisition of data: Gonzalez, Nelson, and Haines. Analysis and interpretation of data: Almahmeed, Nelson, Gallagher, and Murr. Drafting of the manuscript: Almahmeed and Gonzalez. Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Nelson, Haines, Gallagher, and Murr. Statistical analysis: Almahmeed. Administrative, technical, and material support: Murr. Study supervision: Gallagher and Murr.

Financial Disclosure: None reported.

Previous Presentations: This study was presented as a poster at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Bariatric Surgery; June 26–July 1, 2005; Orlando, Florida.

Gonzalez  RNelson  LGGallagher  SFMurr  MM Anastomotic leaks after laparoscopic gastric bypass. Obes Surg 2004;14 (10) 1299- 1307
PubMed Link to Article
Fernandez  AZ  JrDeMaria  EJTichansky  DS  et al.  Experience with over 3,000 open and laparoscopic bariatric procedures: multivariate analysis of factors related to leak and resultant mortality. Surg Endosc 2004;18 (2) 193- 197
PubMed Link to Article
Papasavas  PKCaushaj  PFMcCormick  JT  et al.  Laparoscopic management of complications following laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for morbid obesity. Surg Endosc 2003;17 (4) 610- 614
PubMed Link to Article
Hamilton  ECSims  TLHamilton  TTMullican  MAJones  DBProvost  DA Clinical predictors of leak after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for morbid obesity. Surg Endosc 2003;17 (5) 679- 684
PubMed Link to Article
Serafini  FAnderson  WGhassemi  PPoklepovic  JMurr  MM The utility of contrast studies and drains in the management of patients after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obes Surg 2002;12 (1) 34- 38
PubMed Link to Article
Podnos  YDJimenez  JCWilson  SEStevens  CMNguyen  NT Complications after laparoscopic gastric bypass: a review of 3464 cases. Arch Surg 2003;138 (9) 957- 961
PubMed Link to Article
Buckwalter  JAHerbst  CA  Jr Leaks occurring after gastric bariatric operations. Surgery 1988;103 (2) 156- 160
PubMed
DeMaria  EJSugerman  HJKellum  JMMeador  JGWolfe  LG Results of 281 consecutive total laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypasses to treat morbid obesity. Ann Surg 2002;235 (5) 640- 647
PubMed Link to Article
Schauer  PIkramuddin  SHamad  GGourash  W The learning curve for laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is 100 cases. Surg Endosc 2003;17 (2) 212- 215
PubMed Link to Article
Gonzalez  RHaines  KGallagher  SFMurr  MM Does experience preclude leaks in laparoscopic gastric bypass? Surg Endosc 2006;20 (11) 1687- 1692
PubMed Link to Article
Gould  JCGarren  MJStarling  JR Lessons learned from the first 100 cases in a new minimally invasive bariatric surgery program. Obes Surg 2004;14 (5) 618- 625
PubMed Link to Article
Gonzalez  RHaines  KNelson  LGGallagher  SFMurr  MM Predictive factors of thromboembolic events in patients undergoing Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Surg Obes Relat Dis 2006;2 (1) 30- 36
PubMed Link to Article
Rizk  NPBach  PBSchrag  D  et al.  The impact of complications on outcomes after resection for esophageal and gastroesophageal junction carcinoma. J Am Coll Surg 2004;198 (1) 42- 50
PubMed Link to Article
Atkins  BZShah  ASHutcheson  KA  et al.  Reducing hospital morbidity and mortality following esophagectomy. Ann Thorac Surg 2004;78 (4) 1170- 1176
PubMed Link to Article
Branagan  GFinnis  D Prognosis after anastomotic leakage in colorectal surgery. Dis Colon Rectum 2005;48 (5) 1021- 1026
PubMed Link to Article
Petersen  SFreitag  MHellmich  GLudwig  K Anastomotic leakage: impact on local recurrence and survival in surgery of colorectal cancer. Int J Colorectal Dis 1998;13 (4) 160- 163
PubMed Link to Article
Bell  SWWalker  KGRickard  MJ  et al.  Anastomotic leakage after curative anterior resection results in a higher prevalence of local recurrence. Br J Surg 2003;90 (10) 1261- 1266
PubMed Link to Article

Figures

Tables

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 1. Comorbidities Evaluated as Potential Predictors of Added Morbidity After Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass
Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 2. Incidence of Additional Morbidity and Mortality in Patients Who Did and Did Not Develop Anastomotic Leaks
Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 3. Multivariate Logistic Regression of Anastomotic Leak on Added Morbidity and Mortality After Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

References

Gonzalez  RNelson  LGGallagher  SFMurr  MM Anastomotic leaks after laparoscopic gastric bypass. Obes Surg 2004;14 (10) 1299- 1307
PubMed Link to Article
Fernandez  AZ  JrDeMaria  EJTichansky  DS  et al.  Experience with over 3,000 open and laparoscopic bariatric procedures: multivariate analysis of factors related to leak and resultant mortality. Surg Endosc 2004;18 (2) 193- 197
PubMed Link to Article
Papasavas  PKCaushaj  PFMcCormick  JT  et al.  Laparoscopic management of complications following laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for morbid obesity. Surg Endosc 2003;17 (4) 610- 614
PubMed Link to Article
Hamilton  ECSims  TLHamilton  TTMullican  MAJones  DBProvost  DA Clinical predictors of leak after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for morbid obesity. Surg Endosc 2003;17 (5) 679- 684
PubMed Link to Article
Serafini  FAnderson  WGhassemi  PPoklepovic  JMurr  MM The utility of contrast studies and drains in the management of patients after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obes Surg 2002;12 (1) 34- 38
PubMed Link to Article
Podnos  YDJimenez  JCWilson  SEStevens  CMNguyen  NT Complications after laparoscopic gastric bypass: a review of 3464 cases. Arch Surg 2003;138 (9) 957- 961
PubMed Link to Article
Buckwalter  JAHerbst  CA  Jr Leaks occurring after gastric bariatric operations. Surgery 1988;103 (2) 156- 160
PubMed
DeMaria  EJSugerman  HJKellum  JMMeador  JGWolfe  LG Results of 281 consecutive total laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypasses to treat morbid obesity. Ann Surg 2002;235 (5) 640- 647
PubMed Link to Article
Schauer  PIkramuddin  SHamad  GGourash  W The learning curve for laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is 100 cases. Surg Endosc 2003;17 (2) 212- 215
PubMed Link to Article
Gonzalez  RHaines  KGallagher  SFMurr  MM Does experience preclude leaks in laparoscopic gastric bypass? Surg Endosc 2006;20 (11) 1687- 1692
PubMed Link to Article
Gould  JCGarren  MJStarling  JR Lessons learned from the first 100 cases in a new minimally invasive bariatric surgery program. Obes Surg 2004;14 (5) 618- 625
PubMed Link to Article
Gonzalez  RHaines  KNelson  LGGallagher  SFMurr  MM Predictive factors of thromboembolic events in patients undergoing Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Surg Obes Relat Dis 2006;2 (1) 30- 36
PubMed Link to Article
Rizk  NPBach  PBSchrag  D  et al.  The impact of complications on outcomes after resection for esophageal and gastroesophageal junction carcinoma. J Am Coll Surg 2004;198 (1) 42- 50
PubMed Link to Article
Atkins  BZShah  ASHutcheson  KA  et al.  Reducing hospital morbidity and mortality following esophagectomy. Ann Thorac Surg 2004;78 (4) 1170- 1176
PubMed Link to Article
Branagan  GFinnis  D Prognosis after anastomotic leakage in colorectal surgery. Dis Colon Rectum 2005;48 (5) 1021- 1026
PubMed Link to Article
Petersen  SFreitag  MHellmich  GLudwig  K Anastomotic leakage: impact on local recurrence and survival in surgery of colorectal cancer. Int J Colorectal Dis 1998;13 (4) 160- 163
PubMed Link to Article
Bell  SWWalker  KGRickard  MJ  et al.  Anastomotic leakage after curative anterior resection results in a higher prevalence of local recurrence. Br J Surg 2003;90 (10) 1261- 1266
PubMed Link to Article

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