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Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2017 Aug 3;8(8):e112. doi: 10.1038/ctg.2017.39.

Pancreatic and Intestinal Function Post Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery for Obesity.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research and Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Despite the fact that the most effective treatment for morbid obesity today is gastric bypass surgery, some patients develop life-threatening nutritional complications associated with their weight loss.


Here we examine the influence of the altered anatomy and digestive physiology on pancreatic secretion and fat absorption. Thirteen post Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) patients who had lost >100 lbs in the first year following surgery and who gave variable histories of gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction, were selected for study. Food-stimulated pancreatic enzyme secretion and GI hormone responses were measured during 2 h perfusions of the Roux limb with a standard polymeric liquid formula diet and polyethylene glycol marker, with collections of secretions from the common channel distal to the anastomosis and blood testing. Fat absorption was then measured during a 72 h balance study when a normal diet was given containing ~100 g fat/d.


Result showed that all patients had some fat malabsorption, but eight had coefficients of fat absorption <80%, indicative of steatorrhea. This was associated with significantly lower feed-stimulated secretion rates of trypsin, amylase, and lipase, and higher plasma peptide-YY concentrations compared with healthy controls. Five steatorrhea patients were subsequently treated with low quantities of pancreatic enzyme supplements for 3 months, and then retested. The supplements were well tolerated, and fat absorption improved in four of five patients accompanied by an increase in lipase secretion, but body weight increased in only three. Postprandial breath hydrogen concentrations were elevated with some improvement following enzyme supplementation suggesting persistent bacterial overgrowth and decreased colonic fermentation.


Our investigations revealed a wide spectrum of gastrointestinal abnormalities, including fat malabsorption, impaired food stimulated pancreatic secretion, ileal brake stimulation, and bacterial overgrowth, in patients following RYGB which could be attributed to the breakdown of the normally highly orchestrated digestive anatomy and physiology.

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