Gastric Bypass Caused Woman to Choke to Death: Report

An investigation into the death of a U.K. woman has determined that she may have eaten herself to death after gastric bypass surgery, highlighting the potential side effects of the popular weight-loss surgery. 

Dianne Bernadette Cooper-Clarke died in December 2011, after she suffocated on a backlog of food that had built up in her esophagus following surgery to reduce the size of her stomach to the size of a thumb.

The death, while a rarity, reveals a danger associated with gastric bypass surgery that may occur when people who cannot conform to the new dietary requirements and begin using their esophagus as they once used their stomach.

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The medical examiner’s report on Cooper-Clarke indicated that she had swollen her esophagus to the size of a stomach by stuffing it with food. It is typically the size of a little finger. The food got so backed up that it blocked her ability to breathe and she suffocated.

Cooper-Clarke never told her family that she underwent the weight-loss surgery, instead claiming that she had undergone surgery for cancer.

The U.K. inquest determined that there was no fault in the surgery itself and that Cooper-Clarke’s death was solely the result of her inability to control her eating.

Gastric bypass surgery alters the size and shape of the stomach and intestines in order to address issues of extreme obesity and to promote rapid weight loss. The procedure has gained in popularity in recent years.

A study published last September found that gastric bypass and other forms of bariatric surgery frequently result in complications. All of the surgeries, including the lap-band and duodenal surgery as well as gastric bypass, require nutritional supplements and a major alteration of the recpient’s diet for the rest of their life.

About 220,000 people in the U.S. underwent bariatric surgery in 2009. Gastric bypass is the most popular, and duodenal is only performed in about 1% of those operations and is reserved for the most extreme cases of obesity.


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