In some cases, your surgeon may decide after beginning a minimally invasive procedure that you require an open surgery to safely and most effectively complete your surgery. Your surgeon will determine which type and method of surgery is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital based on certain factors. These include your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different gastrectomy procedures and ask why your surgeon will use a particular type of surgery for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your doctor will perform a gastrectomy using general anesthesia. General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain.

What to expect the day of your gastrectomy

The day of your surgery, you can expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure that you understand and sign the surgical consent.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member if possible. The surgical team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will receive.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV.
  • The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • Your anesthesiologist will place a tube in your windpipe to protect and control your breathing during general anesthesia. You will not feel or remember this or the surgery as they happen.
  • Once you are asleep, a surgical team member will insert a tube through your nose and pass it through your throat into your stomach. This removes stomach contents in preparation for the gastrectomy. It stays in after the surgery for several days to rest your remaining stomach.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

What are the risks and potential complications of gastrectomy?

As with all surgeries, a gastrectomy involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of surgery

The general risks of surgical procedures include:

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Heart attack
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood

Potential complications of gastrectomy

The majority of gastrectomy procedures are successful. However, complications of gastrectomy can occur and become serious. Potential complications of gastrectomy include:

  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Dumping syndrome (post-gastrectomy syndrome), a rapid emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine causing symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, cramping, and abdominal pain
  • Gallstones
  • Gastritis (irritated stomach tissue), gastroesophageal reflux (regurgitation), and heartburn
  • Hernia
  • Injury to your abdominal organs or major blood vessels during the surgery
  • Intestinal stricture (narrowing)
  • Leaking of digested foods and digestive juices into the abdominal cavity from the area where organs are sewed together
  • Malnutrition including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can lead to long-term complications. These include osteoporosis, anemia, and permanent nervous system damage.
  • Nausea or vomiting from eating more than your smaller stomach or digestive tract can hold
  • Scarring of the stomach, intestines, or esophagus leading to digestive tract blockages
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Weight loss