MASSDEVICE ON CALL — A rare genetic mutation that killed a weight loss surgery patient in Tennessee can be set off by weight loss surgeries like gastric bypass.
The disease, which causes the body to convert protein into ammonia, also causes the body to consume lean muscle when protein isn’t eaten, creating a cruel cycle of spiking ammonia levels in the blood and anorexia-like weight loss.
The disease, urea cycle failure, killed 43-year-old Hilary Lane 5 years after a gastric bypass procedure, USA Today reports. Lane weighed 88 pounds when she died.
"Bariatic surgery is absolutely not the perfect fix-all, be-all, everything is going to be lovely afterward. That’s not true either. There are risks associated with the operation – absolutely no question about that," Dr. Ronald Clements, director of bariatric surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told the newspaper. "I’ve had some patients lose 500 pounds over their lifetime, gaining and losing, gaining and losing that same 100 pounds or so.
"When you do a gastric bypass, you decrease the absorption of fat," Clements said. "Vitamin D has to be dissolved in fat before your body can absorb it. So when you cut down on fat absorption to be able to lose weight, you also cut down on the ability to absorb vitamin D. The area of the intestine that we bypass in the gastric bypass is also largely responsible for calcium absorption."
Still, he said, the benefits outweigh the risk for morbidly obese patients.
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