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Bariatric Surgery

Epilepsy: The Hidden Side Effect of Bariatric Surgery

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Patients who undergo bariatric surgery might be at higher risk for experiencing epilepsy months after the procedure, according to the authors of a recently published paper.

Bariatric surgery, a common procedure to help patients lose weight, can produce many long-term health benefits. There are known side effects, from minor ailments, such as acid reflux, to more serious complications, such as ulcers and bowel obstruction. A less well-known long-term side effect is epilepsy. It is not completely unheard of; a nurse in Connecticut has been raising awareness of this “silent danger” and other possible serious long-term side effects.

Noting a lack of hard data, a group of Canadian researchers explored the subject further. They conducted a population-based, retrospective cohort investigation in Ontario using health information databases. From July 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2016, researchers looked for patients age 18 years and older who underwent bariatric surgery. They excluded patients with a history of seizures, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, or drug or alcohol abuse.

This left 16,958 patients. The authors compared this cohort to more than 622,000 obese patients who did not undergo the bariatric procedure. Investigators followed participants at least three years.

A total of 73 patients who underwent bariatric surgery developed epilepsy vs. 1,260 people who did not undergo the procedure. Researchers adjusted for other epilepsy risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Afterward, researchers estimated the rates of epilepsy at 50 per 100,000 person-years among patients who underwent the bariatric procedure vs. 34 per 100,000 person-years among those who did not.

The incidence of epilepsy was uncommon, but the authors still urged physicians to add this condition to the list of other side effects when discussing the procedure with patients.

For more information on this and other related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Integrative Medicine Alert, Internal Medicine Alert, and Neurology Alert.