New research suggests that some individuals may face increased risks for developing a type of severe headache after going through bariatric surgery, a weight loss procedure that may be prescribed to some obese individuals.
For the new study, which was published in the journal Neurology on Oct. 22, Wouter Schievink, from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and colleagues studied more than 300 individuals with history of spontaneous intracranial hypotension, a condition that occurs when the cerebral spinal fluid, a fluid around the brain, leaks.
The condition can cause headaches that appear when patients are upright and then disappear when they lie down, and which can be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, stiffness of the neck and concentration difficulties.
The researchers also involved 245 individuals who have unruptured intracranial aneurysms, another condition that also causes headaches and found that of the 338 subjects with spontaneous intracranial hypotension, 11, or 3.3 percent had weight loss surgery.
Those with intracranial aneurysms, on the other hand, only had two who underwent bariatric surgery or about 0.8 percent of the subjects in the group leading the researchers to conclude a possible association between weight loss surgery and spontaneous intracranial hypotension.
"This case-control study shows that bariatric surgery is a potential risk factor for spontaneous intracranial hypotension," Schievink and colleagues wrote.
In the 11 study participants with spontaneous intracranial hypotension who underwent bariatric surgery, the headaches started as early as within three months to 20 years after the surgery. Treatment relieved the headaches in nine of these patients while two continued to experience headaches even after treatment.
Although 3.3 percent appears small, the researchers find it significant enough to warn about the possible link between weight loss surgery and spontaneous intracranial hypotension.
"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," Schievink said. "This could be the cause of sudden, severe headaches that can be treated effectively, but there can be serious consequences if misdiagnosed."
Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that nearly 35 percent of American adults are obese, which places them at an increased risk for potentially fatal health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Obese individuals may be recommended to undergo weight loss surgery if lifestyle changes do not work for them.