June Shannon wowed fans when she went from 460 pounds to a size four, an impressive feat that was documented on her reality show Mama June: From Not to Hot.
June Shannon (a.k.a. Mama June) wowed fans when she went from 460 pounds to a size four, an impressive feat that was documented on her reality show Mama June: From Not to Hot. But, on the latest episode of the show, Mama June was shown in “excruciating” pain possibly linked to the weight-loss surgery she underwent as part of her journey.
The reality star underwent a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, a surgery in which doctors remove a large portion of a patient’s stomach, in 2015 after she hit a weight-loss plateau.
During the episode, June says, “The pain, it’s like oh my God it’s excruciating...Something’s really wrong.”
June also says her doctor told her to go to the hospital and get a CAT scan and tests done because “worse-case scenario, it could be a blood clot or a leakage in the sleeve.”
While we have to wait until this week's episode to see what was actually causing June's pain, we asked the experts if complications of this nature are typical with a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. “It’s uncommon but certainly not unheard of,” says Peter LePort, M.D., a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Patients can develop an adhesion, i.e. scar tissue, after undergoing this procedure and can have pain as a result, he says, pointing out that the adhesion can form weeks to decades after someone has surgery. “It’s usually a sharp pain and people feel like someone is pulling on their abdominals,” he says. “It can double them over.”
There are a few other things that can be at play, too. Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, says someone can suffer from a gastric leak (a situation in which the person’s stomach has an acute or chronic leak), which can be painful. A patient can also develop a stricture (an area that doesn’t allow food to pass through easily) in their stomach or may even develop an abscess, a pocket of pus that develops in tissues and organs, she says.
If a person is suffering from an adhesion and it’s impacting their lifestyle, LePort says doctors can perform a surgical procedure to essentially cut out the adhesion. If the adhesion was causing the pain, the patient can feel better as soon as the next day, he says.
Smaller leaks may need a drain, but bigger ones might require surgical intervention, Stanford says, noting that surgery may also be needed in the case of a stricture. However, she says that an abscess might require antibiotics or drainage.
Mama June looked like she was in serious pain, but LePort says people shouldn’t be scared away from getting a vertical sleeve gastrecomy. “The sleeve is a successful weight-loss procedure and it does come with a risk of complications,” he says. “But most of the time, patients do well and they really don’t regret having the procedure.”