It’s common for patients to ask questions about the staples we use in our Sleeve and Gastric Bypass procedures. These are questions like:
- Do the staples dissolve, or are they always there?
- Do the staples cause any type of reaction in my body?
- I’ve heard about leaks, is that a problem with the staples?
- After I have surgery, will the staples cause a problem with MRI scans because of the metal inside me? What about the metal detectors at airports?
The first important thing to know is that surgical staples are NOT experimental. They’ve been used in human surgery going back to the 1960’s, so we know from millions of cases over very long periods of time that staples do NOT cause any adverse reactions.
Most of the time, we use surgical staplers when we need to cut across the stomach or the intestine. The surgical staplers help us be more precise, and the process cleaner, which equals safer. The process is that the stapler clamps and stabilizes the tissue, then the stapler has a surgical blade to make the cut and it has multiple rows of staples that form on each side of the cut simultaneously to seal the tissue. The clamping effect of the stapler also means that the cut is very precise; it happens exactly where the surgeon wants it to be. The staple sealing function prevents leakage and bleeding – fantastic! All this is so much better than the old way which was to make the necessary cut “free hand” then to suture the edges together in the midst of ongoing leaking and bleeding.
Check out the stapler in live surgery on YouTube here: About Staples in Bariatric Surgery
You saw that the stapler leaves behind nice clean edges that are aligned and secure, kind of like the inseam of your jeans. This kind of stable alignment is the best way to promote healing of the tissues. Bariatric surgeons typically ensure there is no leakage by doing a pressure leak test after they’ve completed the surgical anatomy.
As you can see, these are tiny little staples that are shaped a lot like the staples that you use for paper in your office. They are made from titanium, which never rusts or degrades in the body. There is no allergic reaction to titanium.
Once the sealed edges of gastrointestinal tissue knit or “fuse” back together through the natural healing process, the staples aren’t needed and these tiny bits of titanium simply float embedded in the tissue. There is ongoing research to devise absorbable staples, but so far nothing has come close to being as reliable as titanium.
So, here’s a summary of the answers to common questions about staples:
- Do they cause any type of allergy or reaction? None at all.
- What’s the deal with staples and leaks? Surgeons typically do the pressure test to be sure there’s no leakage on the day of surgery. Then, a leak will only happen if the tissues don’t heal well over the next 1-2 weeks. There are a lot of potential causes for this rare problem, beyond the scope of this video.
- Is there a problem with MRI scans? No; titanium has VERY little magnetic response and the effect is so small that we know it’s OK to have MRI after bariatric surgery.
- What about airport metal detectors? No problem. Even with more intense airport security, the total amount of metal is so small that it’s not detected by airport systems.