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“Candy cane syndrome:” an underappreciated cause of abdominal pain and nausea after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery

      Abstract

      Background

      “Candy cane” syndrome (a blind afferent Roux limb at the gastrojejunostomy) has been implicated as a cause of abdominal pain, nausea, and emesis after Roux-n-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) but remains poorly described.

      Objectives

      To report that “candy cane” syndrome is real and can be treated effectively with revisional bariatric surgery

      Setting

      All patients underwent “candy cane” resection at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

      Methods

      All patients who underwent resection of the “candy cane” between January 2011 and July 2015 were included. All had preoperative workup to identify “candy cane” syndrome. Demographic data; pre-, peri-, and postoperative symptoms; data regarding hospitalization; and postoperative weight loss were assessed through retrospective chart review. Data were analyzed using Student’s t test and χ2 analysis where appropriate.

      Results

      Nineteen patients had resection of the “candy cane” (94% female, mean age 50±11 yr), within 3 to 11 years after initial RYGB. Primary presenting symptoms were epigastric abdominal pain (68%) and nausea/vomiting (32%), particularly with fibrous foods and meats. On upper gastrointestinal study and endoscopy, the afferent blind limb was the most direct outlet from the gastrojejunostomy. Only patients with these preoperative findings were deemed to have “candy cane” syndrome. Eighteen (94%) cases were completed laparoscopically. Length of the “candy cane” ranged from 3 to 22 cm. Median length of stay was 1 day. After resection, 18 (94%) patients had complete resolution of their symptoms (P<.001). Mean body mass index decreased from 33.9±6.1 kg/m2 preoperatively to 31.7±5.6 kg/m2 at 6 months (17.4% excess weight loss) and 30.5±6.9 kg/m2 at 1 year (25.7% excess weight loss). The average length of latest follow-up was 20.7 months.

      Conclusion

      “Candy cane” syndrome is a real phenomenon that can be managed safely with excellent outcomes with resection of the blind afferent limb. A thorough diagnostic workup is paramount to proper identification of this syndrome. Surgeons should minimize the size of the blind afferent loop left at the time of initial RYGB.

      Keywords

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