Gastric Sleeve Leak

For most patients, the benefits of a gastric sleeve greatly outweigh other potentially more serious health challenges faced as a result of their weight. However, as with any surgery, a gastric sleeve operation carries some risk. Your weight loss surgery team will ensure you are educated on any potential risks and encourage you to make informed decisions.

Gastric Sleeve Leak Operation & Surgery

Gastric sleeve leaks are one of the more serious potential complications after your procedure that your doctor will monitor for. Although rare (occurring in less than 5% of patients), patients will usually experience a gastric sleeve leak within the first 7 days post-surgery. Your surgeon and weight loss team will have a comprehensive aftercare plan in place to closely monitor your recovery in the weeks following your procedure. However, ensuring you have a good understanding of the possible complications will help with early detection and treatment.

What is a Gastric Sleeve Leak?

A gastric sleeve operation involves removing 75-85% of the stomach to reduce its size to a banana-shaped “sleeve”. This smaller stomach can hold only a fraction of the food that the original, larger stomach could hold, with a limited capacity of about 200ml. The stomach remnant produces less of the hunger producing hormone ghrelin, which switches off the desire to eat. It is a laparoscopic surgery which involves five small incisions. A gastric sleeve is the most common type of weight loss surgery in Australia.

A gastric sleeve leak means the stomach contents or digestive fluids are leaking from the newly created stomach sleeve into the abdominal cavity or surrounding tissues. It can lead to infection, inflammation, and other life-threatening complications if not promptly diagnosed and treated.

They can happen for several reasons, including:

  • Surgical technique
  • Tissue weakness
  • Infection
  • Ischaemia (tissue death)
  • Staple line failure
  • Pressure (e.g., overeating)
Symptoms of a Gastric Sleeve Leak

Common symptoms of a gastric sleeve leak include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnoea)
  • Shoulder pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain with swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling generally unwell or lethargic
  • Signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or swelling at the surgical site
  • Abdominal tenderness and rigidity
  • Low blood pressure

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms after a gastric sleeve surgery, seek immediate medical attention. Diagnosis requires a blood test and CT scan, and the earlier the CT scan the easier to treat.

Treatments for Gastric Sleeve Leaks

The primary approach to treating a gastric sleeve leak involves endoscopy to insert a drain through the staple line hole into the collection. Sometimes an external drain into the collection is also required. Occasionally a stent is placed in the stomach to effectively “plug” the hole. Sometimes surgery is required to drain collections of infected fluid.

Patients with gastric sleeve leaks may require intensive medical care, including antibiotics to manage infection and supportive measures to address fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Close monitoring and follow-up care are essential to track progress and ensure a successful recovery.

It’s crucial for individuals who have undergone a gastric sleeve procedure to follow their surgeon’s postoperative guidelines, attend follow-up appointments, and be aware of the signs and symptoms of complications like leaks to ensure early detection and appropriate intervention if needed. Read more information about the gastric sleeve procedure here.


Your weight loss surgery team will ensure you are educated on any potential risks and encourage you to make informed decisions. If you have any questions or concerns about weight loss surgery and what’s right for, please get in touch with our team.

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