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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 164-167

Internal hernia in pregnancy after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: A surgical diagnostic dilemma

1 Department of General Surgery, Rashid Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2 Emergency Department, Rashid Hospital Trauma Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Latifa Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Date of Submission19-Nov-2021
Date of Decision14-Apr-2022
Date of Acceptance19-Apr-2022
Date of Web Publication21-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Hadiel A Kaiyasah
Department of General Surgery, Rashid Hospital, 315 Umm Hurair Second, PO Box 4545, Dubai
United Arab Emirates
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/hmj.hmj_74_21

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Rationale: Internal hernia after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) is a lifelong risk. During pregnancy, this risk increases due to the rise in the intra-abdominal pressure. Early recognition and intervention are the keys to have a better outcome. The aim of this case report is to shed the light on the possibility of such occurrence. Patient Concerns: A 40-year-old woman presented to the emergency department at 36 weeks of gestation with acute abdominal pain. Diagnosis: She was in labor. In view of her past history of gastric bypass, a surgical consult was obtained. Patient developed episodes of hypotension with deceleration, so an emergency caesarean section was performed. Interventions: The abdomen was explored Intraoperatively. An internal hernia with small bowel volvulus was found. Outcomes: The hernia reduced and bowel revived. Postoperatively, the patient had a smooth recovery and a healthy baby. Lessons: Nowadays, due to the global obesity epidemic, lots of women of childbearing age are undergoing bariatric surgery all over the world. Having the knowledge about the possible complications of such procedures is of paramount importance. This is in order to be able to have an earlier operative intervention whenever indicated, hence, decreasing the maternofetal morbidity and mortality. Internal herniation after RYGB exemplifies a rare, high-risk complication that might occur in pregnancy. A high index of suspicion is required for early diagnosis and better outcome.

Keywords: Acute abdomen, bariatric, gastric bypass, internal hernia, labour, pregnancy

How to cite this article:
Kaiyasah HA, Al Ali M, Alhubaishi L, Oliver S, Badawi F, Al Ani A. Internal hernia in pregnancy after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: A surgical diagnostic dilemma. Hamdan Med J 2022;15:164-7

How to cite this URL:
Kaiyasah HA, Al Ali M, Alhubaishi L, Oliver S, Badawi F, Al Ani A. Internal hernia in pregnancy after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: A surgical diagnostic dilemma. Hamdan Med J [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 7];15:164-7. Available from: http://www.hamdanjournal.org/text.asp?2022/15/3/164/356434

  Introduction Top

As the burden of obesity is growing globally, the percentage of bariatric surgeries performed across the world is significantly rising. In view of that, comprehensive knowledge of the possible complications after such operations is of paramount importance.

Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) is considered among the most commonly performed procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity. While weight loss is the main advantage of bariatric surgery, other positive results include improved fertility in women. This in return can increase the chances of conception.

The risk of internal hernia (IH) after RYGB can rise from the associated increased intra-abdominal pressure during pregnancy. A developing foetus and the physiologic changes of pregnancy can mask the diagnosis and delay intervention, leading to serious maternofoetal consequences.[1],[2],[3]

This case report of IH during pregnancy in a patient with a history of RYGB highlights the importance of keeping a high index of suspicion for such diagnosis to have early bariatric consultation and intervention. Thus, preventing life-threatening consequences for both mother and the developing foetus.

  Case Report Top

A 40-year-old gravida 7, para 6 woman presented to the accident and emergency department at 36 weeks of gestation with a complaint of abdominal pain of 3 h duration. The pain was in the epigastric region and was described as constant and severe in nature. It was not relieved with regular analgesics, associated with nausea and inability to eat. The patient denied any vaginal bleed or leak, trauma, fever, urinary or bowel complaints.

Her blood investigations revealed a white blood cell count of 14 × 109/L, C-reactive protein – 96 mg/L and haemoglobin – 9.4 g/dL. The rest of the laboratories were within the normal limits. On initial assessment, she looked in pain. Her vital signs were within the normal limits. Chest and cardiac examinations were unremarkable. Her abdomen was soft apart from occasional uterine contractions. Bowel sounds were sluggish. A focused ultrasound examination was done and confirmed a single viable foetus with cephalic presentation and placenta lying anteriorly. Vaginal examination revealed a dilated cervix of 3 cm with intact membranes. In view of being in labour, the patient was shifted to another hospital with obstetric service.

At the labour suite, the pain was constantly increasing and not going with the uterine contractions. A dilated bowel loop of 5 cm in diameter was seen on scanning the upper abdomen [Figure 1]. An urgent surgical consult was obtained given the history of laparoscopic of the past history of laparoscopic RYGB surgery done 18 months ago. On reassessment, the patient's blood pressure dropped to 88/50 mmHg along with recorded deceleration on cardiotocography. The decision was to perform an emergency caesarean section through a lower midline laparotomy. A healthy baby boy was delivered.
Figure 1: Ultrasound abdomen showing dilated bowel loop in the epigastric region

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Intraoperatively, the surgeon on call attended and explored the whole abdomen after extending the laparotomy incision. An IH was found with a dusky loop of biliopancreatic limb going through a previously sutured Petersen's space. After releasing the concentric ring and reducing the hernia, the colour of the small bowel loop gradually recovered with 100% oxygenation and warm saline packs. Hence, there was no need for bowel resection [Figure 2]a, [Figure 2]b, [Figure 2]c, [Figure 2]d. After identifying the anatomy of the RYGB, the mesenteric defect was left wide open to prevent future internal herniation. The drain was placed in the pelvis, and the laparotomy wound closed in layers.
Figure 2: Intraoperative findings. (a) Small bowel volvulus due to internal herniation, (b) Mesenteric defect after releasing the fibrotic ring and reduction of hernia, (c) jejunojejunostomy of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, and (d) The herniated loop of the biliopancreatic limb after reviving its colour

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Post-operatively, the patient had a smooth recovery. A gradual introduction of the diet was done successfully. She was discharged home with her baby after 7 days of an uneventful hospital stay.

  Discussion Top

Acute abdominal pain in pregnancy gives diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. This is in view of the masked picture by the physiologic changes of pregnancy and the developing foetus. It is not uncommon to have non-obstetric causes for abdominal pain during the period of gestation with an incidence of 1 in 500–635 pregnancies.[4] Hence, an early surgical consultation is vital to rule out conditions that might warrant urgent operative intervention, in order to have favorable outcomes for both the mother and her fetus.

Nowadays, the number of women who are undergoing bariatric surgery is increasing. Along with the significant weight loss achieved, fertility improves and the chance of conception rises.[5] As a consequence, possible nutritional and surgical complications might develop [Table 1].
Table 1: Post-operative complications after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass

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IH is one of the serious complications after RYGB, with an incidence ranging from 0.5% to 10%.[6] It commonly happens 1–2 years after surgery due to the greater weight loss at that time, leading to rapid reduction of the intra-abdominal fat and enlargement of potential mesenteric spaces.[7] In pregnancy, IH is a rare complication mostly occurring during the third trimester and can result in maternofoetal morbidity and documented mortality.[8],[9]

There are three anatomical sites where IH after RYGB surgery can occur through; these are the transverse mesocolon, inter-mesenteric jejunostomy or Petersen's space between the mesentery of the Roux limb and the transverse mesocolon [Figure 3].[9] Despite the routine closure of mesenteric defects during the primary surgery, internal herniation can still occur. IH through Petersen's space is considered the most common type encountered.
Figure 3: Sites of internal hernias including mesocolic window (green arrow) Petersen's mesenteric defect (blue arrow) and enteroenterostomy or distal anastomosis mesenteric defect (red arrow). Reference: Comeau, E. et al. Symptomatic internal hernias after laparoscopic bariatric surgery. Surg Endosc 2005;19:34-9

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A higher chance of IHs was found in retrocolic RYGB than in patients undergoing antecolic Roux limb orientation.[10],[11] However, IHs remain a life-long risk.

A recent systematic review by Dave et al. included 27 articles, with a total of 59 women, who developed IH during pregnancy after RYGB was identified. The most common presentation was epigastric pain (52.5%) with associated nausea and vomiting (70.27%).[11]

In regard to laboratory tests, elevated white blood cell counts and serum lactate levels were only found in 31.25% and 10% of the cases, respectively.[11] Hence, laboratory investigations are less likely to help in diagnosing IH.

Abdominal imaging such as ultrasound, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging can show signs of bowel obstruction, and intra-abdominal free fluid and help in excluding other pathology (such as biliary disease). However, their use needs to be carefully considered during pregnancy because of radiation exposure and possible contrast adverse reactions.[11],[12],[13]

While negative radiological studies cannot exclude IH, a diagnostic laparoscopy or laparotomy is recommended, especially in a patient with persistent abdominal pain.

In Vannevel systemic review, two maternal and three perinatal deaths were reported, all in women treated late, 48 h after the onset of the symptoms.[9] Therefore, an early surgical exploration is necessary in this particular and uncommon situation whenever suspected to reduce the risk of bowel ischaemia as well as maternal and foetal adverse outcomes.

  Conclusion Top

Internal herniation after RYGB exemplifies a rare, high-risk complication that might occur in pregnancy; hence, an early surgical consultation is recommended. Multidisciplinary management, including obstetricians and bariatric surgeons, is crucial to prevent maternofoetal morbidity and mortality.


We thank the patient for allowing us to share her medical information for the purpose of this study.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient has given her consent for her images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patient understands that her name and initials will not be published, and due efforts will be made to conceal her identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Patel JA, Patel NA, Thomas RL, Nelms JK, Colella JJ. Pregnancy outcomes after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Surg Obes Relat Dis 2008;4:39-45.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ahmed AR, O'Malley W. Internal hernia with Roux loop obstruction during pregnancy after gastric bypass surgery. Obes Surg 2006;16:1246-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Moore KA, Ouyang DW, Whang EE. Maternal and fetal deaths after gastric bypass surgery for morbid obesity. N Engl J Med 2004;351:721-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
Augustin G, Majerovic M. Non-obstetrical acute abdomen during pregnancy. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2007;131:4-12.  Back to cited text no. 4
Laila A. Outcome of pregnancy after bariatric surgery at Latifa Hospital, DHA, Dubai, UAE- Open J Obstet Gynaecol 2019;9:442-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Theodoros T, Styliani M, Penelope SA, Emilie U, Michel S. Management of a Complicated Internal Herniation After Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass in a 28-Week Pregnant Woman. Case Reports Obesity Surgery 2020;30:5177-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
Stenberg E, Szabo E, Ågren G, Ottosson J, Marsk R, Lönroth H, et al. Closure of mesenteric defects in laparoscopic gastric bypass: A multicentre, randomised, parallel, open-label trial. Lancet 2016;387:1397-404.  Back to cited text no. 7
Torres-Villalobos, Kellogg TA, Leslie DB, Antanavicius G, Ikramuddin S. Obesity Surgery 2009;19:944-50.  Back to cited text no. 8
Vannevel V, Jans G, Bialecka M, Lannoo M, Devlieger R, Van Mieghem T. Internal herniation in pregnancy after gastric bypass: A systematic review. Obstet Gynecol 2016;127:1013-20.  Back to cited text no. 9
Escalona A, Devaud N, Pérez G, Crovari F, Boza C, Viviani P, et al. Antecolic versus retrocolic alimentary limb in laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: A comparative study. Surg Obes Relat Dis 2007;3:423-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
Dave DM, Clarke KO, Manicone JA, Kopelan AM, Saber AA. Internal hernias in pregnant females with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: A systematic review. Surg Obes Relat Dis 2019;15:1633-40.  Back to cited text no. 11
Weng TC, Chang CH, Dong YH, Chang YC, Chuang LM. Anaemia and related nutrient deficiencies after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open 2015;5:e006964.  Back to cited text no. 12
Medeiros M, Matos AC, Pereira SE, Saboya C, Ramalho A. Vitamin D and its relation with ionic calcium, parathyroid hormone, maternal and neonatal characteristics in pregnancy after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Arch Gynecol Obstet 2016;293:539-47.  Back to cited text no. 13


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

  [Table 1]


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