After weight-loss surgery, some patients are likely to suffer from some disturbing side effects. They may reportedly be at risk for developing severe headaches, a new study suggests.
The surgery was associated with a condition known as spontaneous intracranial hypotension, or low blood pressure in the brain. The condition can trigger headaches while standing that disappear when lying down. These headaches can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness and difficulty to concentrate, the researchers added.
Although it is not clear why this condition might develop after weight-loss surgery, the researchers speculated that significant weight loss alters pressure in the brain, which might uncover a pre-existing condition that causes fluid to leak from the spine and trigger severe headaches.
“The hallmark of a spinal fluid leak is a headache that is much worse when you’re up and about and relieved when you lay down,” said lead study author Wouter Schievink, MD, professor, neurosurgery, Cedar Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Schievink has been treating patients with spontaneous leaks in the spine since the early 1990s. “I was always struck by the fact that they were tall and lanky,” he said. “Then I started seeing patients who were not like that, and it seemed that quite a few had undergone bariatric surgery. I didn’t know if it was a coincidence or not.”
The research team analyzed the data of 338 individuals having intracranial hypotension and compared the data with 245 people having unruptured intracranial aneurysms. The results showed that 11 people with spontaneous intracranial hypotension and 2 people with intracranial aneurysms went through weight loss surgery. That’s 3.3 % of those with spontaneous intracranial hypotension that also had previously undergone a bariatric procedure, compared to 0.8 % of healthy control participants.
“It’s important for people who have had bariatric surgery and their doctors to be aware of this possible link, which has not been reported before,” said study author Dr. Wouter I. Schievink, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in a news release. “This could be the cause of sudden, severe headaches that can be treated effectively, but there can be serious consequences if misdiagnosed.”
Their results are published online October 22 in Neurology.