Doctors Look to Bariatric Surgery To Treat Diabetes
Physicians "who have turned surgery into a popular treatment for obesity are setting their sights on a burgeoning new market: diabetes patients," the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, diabetes can "quickly recede" when bariatric surgery "alters the intestinal tract and diverts food away" from hormones in the small intestine that help regulate blood sugar levels. Studies have found that more than 75% of type 2 diabetes patients who undergo bariatric surgery no longer experience symptoms and no longer require insulin or other medications.
"The idea that you could induce long-term remission in diabetic patients without medication is unprecedented," Francesco Rubino, a surgeon at Catholic University in Rome, said.
Bariatric surgery, which costs about $25,000, serves as a "big profit center" for many hospitals, and, in the event that diabetes patients begin to undergo the procedure, "it would bring a gusher of new business," according to the Journal.
However, supporters and critics of bariatric surgery "say it's too early to recommend it for the broad mass of diabetics" because the procedure can lead to a number of serious complications and because a number of other effective, noninvasive treatments exist, the Journal reports.
Richard Hellman, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, said, "As a primary treatment for diabetes, it simply doesn't measure up very well" (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 8/22).