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Outlook Obesity

Surgery May Cause Malnutrition-Related Nerve Damage

Susan Farley
Published Online: Wednesday, December 1, 2004   [ Request Print ]

Patients who have undergone surgery for obesity are at a higher risk for developing nerve damage. After reviewing the records of 435 obesity-surgery patients, investigators found that 16% of these patients developed peripheral neuropathy, compared with only 3% of obese patients who underwent gallbladder surgery. Peripheral neuropathy, damage to the nerves responsible for relaying information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, can include symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and weakness. Some patients had damage to a single nerve, and others experienced more severe, painful nerve damage. Investigators theorize that the nerve damage is caused by the nutritional deficiencies that sometimes accompany obesity surgery. The researchers saw this as good news, in that this postsurgery condition can be prevented with proper nutrition and vitamin supplements. According to P. James B. Dyck, MD, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, ensuring that obesity-surgery patients get proper nutritional counseling and follow-up care may prevent long-term nerve damage. This report closely follows another report touting the effectiveness of various kinds of obesity surgery and how they improve coexisting conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Dyck warns, however, that patients should be aware that they are having "a major, life-changing procedure" and that the surgery is not the end of their treatment. He goes on to stress the importance of nutritional counseling and follow-up care.

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