Doctor warns the life-changing dangers of having bariatric surgery overseas

5th Mar 2024

A leading neurologist at a West Midlands NHS Trust has revealed how he’s treated patients with serious complications in the last month following weight loss surgery abroad.

Dr David Nicholl, from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, is now warning people of the dangers and urging them to do their research before going under the knife in another country.

An increasing number of people are flying to Turkey to undergo the operation that is commonly known as a gastric sleeve or band, in pursuit of a quick and cheaper option.

Speaking in a video on the Trust’s TikTok account, Dr Nicholl, said: “This month I have seen three patients admitted to hospital with serious neurological complications directly as a result of undergoing bariatric surgery in Turkey.

“The patients have presented with very painful nerve damage so they’re unable to walk which has led to dysaesthesia in the feet – which is an abnormal unpleasant sensation felt when touched. It’s exquisitely painful and we’ve had to prescribe opiates as pain relief. I’ve had people who have suffered with double vision and unsteadiness.

“These symptoms are due to the surgeon making the stomach too small during gastric sleeve surgery. Patients have lost huge amounts of weight, sometimes over 25kg in a matter of weeks. They can also develop nutritional nerve damage and a condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy which is life-threatening illness affecting the central nervous system.”

Dr Nicholl said overseas surgeons were targeting people through social media, advertising a fast fix for those too impatient to pursue non surgical alternatives to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and highlighting how much cheaper it can be than pursuing it privately in the UK. 

But he warned: “I’ve seen advertising material and it’s very obvious they are not regulated or on the General Medical Council register, so people should be aware of what they could be getting into.

“It’s really important to speak to a healthcare professional if you are considering surgery. You can speak to your GP and get advice from them before making that move because you don’t want to make a mistake for the sake of cost, something that could change your life forever.”

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