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Medical Edge: Gastric Bypass

CINCINNATI (Liz Bonis) -- An important warning from researchers at the University of Cincinnati about a potentially dangerous complication after weight loss surgery.

It's been nearly a decade since Maureen Simpson-Henson had gastric bypass surgery to manage her weight and reduce high blood sugar levels.  She has lost over 160 pounds.  The surgery makes the stomach smaller and allows  food to bypass part of the small intestine.

Shortly after her surgery, Maureen began experiencing a set of symptoms that she didn't expect.  They weren't higher blood sugar levels, but lower ones.  By the time Maureen got to Doctor Marzieh Salehi she was experiencing serious sweating and many other unusual symptoms after eating.

Maureen Simpson-Henson told Local 12's Liz Bonis, "Just very shaky, didn't know what was going on with my body.  I had never been sweating like this before, inability to concentrate, and it was affecting what I was trying to do in  my personal and professional life."

Part of the reason Maureen reached out to Dr. Salehi was that she is one of just a few researchers in the country looking at a small subset of weight loss surgery patients who seem to experience dangerous hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, years out from the surgery.

Dr. Marzieh Salehi said, "So these individuals, they have a very high insulin response to the glucose, out of proportion.  One other thing we found, they don't have the counter regulation hormones to rescue them from hypoglycemia."
That means in-spite of what they eat they may experience blood sugars symptoms so low and  they can  pass out after meals.

"It is very serious, so these individuals they start having symptoms of faster heart beats, sweating, shakiness those kind of things.  And they might progress to something which actually creates loss of consciousness, so they lose the awareness of these symptoms," Dr. Salehi said.
Some patients can modify activity and food intake to try and reduce the odds, But Salehi's team has also discovered that some people, even prior to surgery, may have a problem with cell function or hormone response.  They may need specific treatments, still in the works, to try and stop this dangerous hypoglycemia.

"Based on our studies, we know that one particular hormones, if you block the action,  you are already making hypoglycemia for these individuals.  So this could be potential for therapeutic solution for these individuals," Salehi said.

In the mean time both Maureen Simpson-Henson and Doctor Marzieh Salehi say be aware and tell your doctor if you notice low blood sugar symptoms.  This study is published in the online Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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