Lisa Marie Presley’s Cause of Death: How a Weight-Loss Surgery Led to a Fatal Complication

Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley, died of a bowel obstruction, a complication of bariatric surgery, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office. The report stated that Lisa Marie’s death in January was caused by a “sequelae of a small bowel obstruction”.

What is a small bowel obstruction?

A small bowel obstruction occurs when the small intestine is blocked, preventing the passage of food and fluids. This can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating and constipation. If left untreated, a small bowel obstruction can lead to serious complications such as infection, dehydration, tissue death and perforation .

What causes a small bowel obstruction?

There are many possible causes of a small bowel obstruction, such as colon cancer, medication, hernia, inflammatory bowel disease and adhesions. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that form after surgeries or infections and can stick organs together or cause them to twist. Adhesions are one of the most common causes of small bowel obstructions .

How does bariatric surgery relate to a small bowel obstruction?

Bariatric surgery is a weight-loss procedure that alters the digestive system to limit the amount of food intake or absorption. There are different types of bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding. Bariatric surgery can help people with obesity lose weight and improve their health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea .

However, bariatric surgery also carries some risks and side effects, such as bleeding, infection, leakage, ulcers, malnutrition and gallstones. One of the long-term complications of bariatric surgery is the development of adhesions that can cause small bowel obstructions. According to the medical examiner’s report, this is what happened to Lisa Marie Presley.

How common and fatal is this complication?

The incidence and mortality rates of small bowel obstructions after bariatric surgery vary depending on the type of surgery, the patient’s characteristics and the follow-up care. A study published in 2019 found that the incidence of small bowel obstructions after bariatric surgery ranged from 0.5% to 8.1%, depending on the type of surgery and the length of follow-up . The mortality rate was estimated to be 0.1% .

Another study published in 2020 found that the incidence of small bowel obstructions after bariatric surgery was 3.4%, with a median time of occurrence of 2.5 years after surgery . The mortality rate was 0.4% .

These studies suggest that small bowel obstructions after bariatric surgery are relatively rare but potentially life-threatening complications that require prompt diagnosis and treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of a small bowel obstruction?

The signs and symptoms of a small bowel obstruction may include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps that come and go
  • Abdominal swelling or distension
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to pass gas or stool
  • Fever or chills
  • Dehydration or low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate or breathing

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if you have a history of bariatric surgery or other abdominal surgeries, you should seek medical attention immediately.

How is a small bowel obstruction diagnosed and treated?

A small bowel obstruction can be diagnosed by physical examination, blood tests, imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound or CT scan, and sometimes endoscopy or laparoscopy. The treatment depends on the cause and severity of the obstruction. Some cases may resolve with conservative measures such as fluids, antibiotics and nasogastric tube decompression. Other cases may require surgical intervention to remove the obstruction or repair any damage to the intestine .

How can a small bowel obstruction be prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent a small bowel obstruction after bariatric surgery, but some measures that may help reduce the risk include:

  • Following your surgeon’s instructions on diet, exercise and medication after surgery
  • Avoiding foods that may cause gas or constipation
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Seeking regular follow-up care with your surgeon and nutritionist
  • Reporting any abdominal pain or discomfort to your doctor
  • Being aware of the signs and symptoms of a small bowel obstruction


Lisa Marie Presley’s cause of death was a rare but serious complication of bariatric surgery that she had undergone several years ago as a weight-loss procedure. Her death highlights the importance of being informed about the potential risks and benefits of bariatric surgery and seeking timely medical attention if any problems arise. Lisa Marie Presley was a talented singer and songwriter who followed in her father’s footsteps and left behind a legacy of music and love. She was 54 years old.

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