Weight loss surgery in Tijuana ends in complications

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Patients in the U.S. view the Tijuana surgeries as being a cheaper alternative, but some survivors say the less expensive route usually means more complications. It’s also difficult for surgeons in the States to correct those problems.

“I was 400 pounds, and in order for me to see my grand babies be born, I went to Tijuana and had the weight loss surgery - now I’m 170 and there’s no stopping it,” survivor Anita Gatlin said.

Gatlin says she went to Mexico for gastric sleeve surgery, but it resulted in her stomach being removed. Three years later, Gatlin says she’s still facing extreme complications like weight loss and is fighting for her life.

“My insurance would not pay for it because it costs too much,” Gatlin said. “I have good insurance. So I went over there and paid 3,000 dollars - well you get what you pay for.”

She along with Lake Area bariatric surgeons are issuing warnings to those considering this alternative.

“It really blows my mind away that patients go have surgery and come back home and are just left in the wind to die,” Dr. Niazy Selim said.

Dr. Selim says he’s the only fellowship trained GI surgeon between Houston and New Orleans, and calls this surgery high-risk requiring life-long follow up care.

“They are risky patients,” Dr. Selim said. “How can you have surgery and you leave the country? I mean this is a no-no. The best person to deal with a complication is usually the surgeon who did it.”

Dr. Selim has a page dedicated to describing the risks associated with traveling outside the U.S. for this surgery. Gatlin is making it her mission to be a walking testimony to help others.

“It’s not what they make it out to be,” Gatlin said. “They make all this thing out to be a fairy tale. It’s not. People are dying. People are being in the hospital.”

“They’ll never be the same,” Gatlin said. “Their families will never be the same. I will never be the same. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried and cried over this. I want to get it out to the people in the U.S. to let them know - stop.”

Dr. Selim believes research is key to find a place where doctors have a proven track record with this type of surgery and follow up care.

**Correction: Dr. Niazy Selim is the only fellowship trained GI surgeon between Houston and New Orleans, not the only bariatric surgeon.

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