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Rare Brain Condition Linked to Obesity Surgery

American researchers have cautioned that some patients who complete bariatric surgery can develop a rare form of brain condition related to vitamin// deficiency, called Wernicke encephalopathy.

The researchers who published their findings in the journal Neurology, came about their conclusions by extensive survey of data relating to patients who had completed various types of bariatric surgery.

The syndrome - Wernicke encephalopathy - affects the nervous system and brain, and can lead to confusion and the inability to co-ordinate movement. It is said to be caused by a lack of vitamin B1 or thiamine, and is accentuated by repeated vomiting after surgery.

The researchers who were led by Dr. Sonal Singh, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina studied relevant data of patients who had undergone obesity surgery and discovered 32 cases of Wernicke encephalopathy.

Singh found that most instances of the syndrome occurred from 4 to 12 weeks after the surgery. Most of the patients, 27, were women. The complication was found to ‘favor’ women especially under the age of 55.

The study found the condition can appear after all types of weight-loss surgery, including gastric bypass in which surgeons section off a small portion of the stomach into a pouch that bypasses the first part of the small intestine and connects directly to the lower portions.

Other types include surgery to "band" the stomach and gastric partitioning that divides the stomach into two parts.

Singh now urges those who have undergone weight loss surgery to take their prescribed vitamin supplements and be alert for symptoms such as vomiting, confusion, visual changes and lack of co-ordination.

Says Singh, "When people who have had weight loss surgery start experiencing any of these symptoms, they need to see a doctor right away.

"If treated promptly, the outlook is usually good”, he adds.

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