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Gastroparesis: Post-surgical gastroparesis (Part Four)

Surgery is also a common trigger for gastroparesis.  GI surgery is often complicated by post-operative ileus, in which the GI tract is temporarily paralyzed, at least partially due to mast cell degranulation.  Gastroparesis is often viewed as analogous to post-op ileus, localized to the stomach.  In patients with post-op infections or organ failure, GP is also seen sometimes.  The gastric inflammation associated with surgery inhibits motility acutely.

A number of surgeries have been associated with GP, especially those that manipulate the stomach.  Partial or complete removal of the stomach (gastrectomy) can cause GP.  Removal of all or part of the pancreas also induces gastroparesis in about 20% of patients.  It is most often seen alongside other post-op complications.

(Author’s note: the previous paragraph originally had a sentence that said the following: “6.9% of patients who undergo radical gastrectomy develop GP.”  This is not correct and nonsensical, I made a mistake when typing this up.  I deleted the sentence from the above paragraph, and added a new sentence a few paragraphs down that says: “In a study with over 500 patients who underwent radical gastrectomy for gastric cancer, 6.9% of patients had gastroparesis.”  Sorry for any confusion I may have caused with this error.)

7.2% of all reported gastroparesis cases occurred following gastrectomy or fundoplication, operations that manipulate the stomach.  Fundoplication, which “wraps” the stomach around the esophagus to decrease reflux, can damage nerves and interfere with stomach relaxation.  If vagus nerve function is damaged, GP can result, often with a dominant bloating presentation.  Overall, Nissen fundoplication is the most common cause of post-surgical gastroparesis.  A follow up surgery to revert to a partial fundoplication with pyloroplasty (“loosening the wrap”) can sometimes reverse the gastroparesis.

Bariatric (weight loss) surgery carries the risk of upper GI dysfunction.  While this most often affects the esophagus, GP is sometimes seen, and it is usually very severe and persistent.  Botox injections and gastric electrical stimulation are sometimes fruitful in this population.

Gastroparesis can also result from a number of surgeries that do not directly manipulate the stomach.  Most of these surgeries could result in vagus nerve damage and therefore impact upper GI motility.  Removal of part of the esophagus, botox injections for achalasia, lung transplantation and liver surgeries can all cause gastroparesis.  Conditions that require gastric surgery can directly cause gastroparesis prior to surgical intervention.  In a study with over 500 patients who underwent radical gastrectomy for gastric cancer, 6.9% of patients had gastroparesis.

Conversely, stomach surgery can sometimes alleviate gastroparesis symptoms.  Subtotal or complete gastrectomy improves symptom profiles in 67% of patients.  In one small patient cohort, 6/7 patients having subtotal gastrectomy had immediate resolution of vomiting, with significant improvement in quality of life for up to six years.  Patients who have nausea as a cardinal symptom, who have previously needed TPN, or who have had retained food in the stomach during endoscopy, are less likely to have resolution due to these surgeries.  Post-op ileus, wound infection, intestinal obstruction and anastomotic leakage are common complications of these surgeries to mitigate gastroparesis.


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