Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy not only fails to improve gastroesophageal reflux disease in most patients who undergo the weight-loss procedure, it actually worsens GERD symptoms in many of them and induces GERD in 9%, according to a report published online Feb. 5 in JAMA Surgery.
In addition, patients with preexisting GERD who undergo laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG) have high rates of surgical complications; revision surgery; failure to achieve weight loss; and failure to resolve weight-related comorbidities such as diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and hypertension. In contrast, patients who undergo gastric bypass show significant improvement in all of these outcomes, said Dr. Cecily E. DuPree and her associates in the department of surgery, Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Based on the findings from their study of a national database including 4,832 patients who had laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG) and 33,867 who had gastric bypass (GB), "we believe that all patients should be evaluated for the presence and severity of GERD and counseled regarding the relative efficacy of LSG vs. GB or other bariatric operations before surgery. Although there is no definitive evidence to support the listing of GERD as an absolute contraindication to LSG, the available data suggest that the presence of preexisting severe GERD or esophageal dysmotility may be considered a relative contraindication," they said.
Dr. DuPree and her colleagues noted that until now, the sleeve procedure’s effect on GERD was unknown. Small, single-center series "have raised significant concerns," but no large study has examined the issue. So she and her associates used data from a large, nationwide database (the Bariatric Outcomes Longitudinal Database) to track the resolution, persistence, or development of GERD in 4,832 patients who underwent laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in 2007-2010, comparing their outcomes with those of 33,867 patients who underwent gastric bypass during the same period and served as controls.
The overall prevalence of GERD was 49.7% in the entire study population, and that of severe GERD was 25.7%, confirming that this disorder is very common in candidates for bariatric surgery.
The prevalence of GERD was 44.5% among patients undergoing the sleeve procedure. "This highlights the concern that there is a large population at risk of adverse outcomes after LSG if the procedure is associated with anatomical or physiologic changes that increase the risk of postoperative GERD," the investigators noted.
Most LSG patients (84.1%) had persistent GERD symptoms after the procedure; only 15.9% reported resolution of symptoms. An additional 9.0% of LSG patients reported postoperative worsening of GERD symptoms. And 8.6% of patients who didn’t have GERD before undergoing sleeve gastrectomy developed the disorder afterward.
In contrast, most patients who underwent gastric bypass showed complete resolution (62.8%) or stabilization (17.6%) of GERD symptoms. Only 2.2% reported worsening GERD symptoms, and none developed de novo symptoms.
Among the LSG patients, the complication rate was significantly higher in those with preexisting GERD (15.1%) or preexisting severe GERD (16.3%) than in those without GERD (10.6%). "There was also a small but statistically significant increase in the need for revisional surgery between LSG patients with and without preoperative GERD symptoms (0.6% vs. 0.3%)," the investigators wrote (JAMA Surg. 2014 [doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2013.4323]).
In contrast, the presence of GERD had no effect on complications in the control group.
Similarly, the rate of failure to lose weight was higher in LSG patients with preoperative GERD and in LSG patients with severe preoperative GERD than in those without GERD. Again, the presence of GERD had no such effect on weight loss in the gastric bypass patients.
In addition, the percentage of patients who showed resolution of comorbidities was significantly decreased among patients with preoperative GERD who underwent LSG, compared with all other groups.
"These data raise significant concerns about the effect of LSG on the obesity-related comorbidity of GERD and suggest that most patients with preexisting GERD will have either no improvement or possibly worsening of their symptoms after LSG," Dr. DuPree and her associates said.
The exact reason why the sleeve procedure could contribute to the worsening of reflux or the de novo development of GERD is not known, but there are several anatomical or physiologic factors that may play a role. Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy may decrease lower esophageal sphincter resting tone, and it may disrupt the antropyloric pump mechanism or narrow the pylorus.
It is also possible that an excessively large or dilated gastric sleeve may retain the capacity for increased acid production, causing reflux, or that it may decrease esophageal acid clearance. And a hiatal hernia that is unrecognized at the time of surgery or that develops afterward could also produce reflux symptoms.