Many Weight-Loss Surgeries Lead to Complications, Increased Costs, Study Finds
About 40% of patients who have bariatric or gastric bypass surgeries within six months develop complications that lead to increased health care costs, according to a survey released on Sunday by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, USA Today reports. For the study, published in the August edition of Medical Care, a team of economists led by William Encinosa examined health insurance claims from 2,522 patients who had weight-loss surgeries between 2001 and 2002.
According to the study, 22% of participants developed complications during their initial hospital stays, and an additional 18% returned to the hospital within six months to receive treatment for complications. Those participants were either readmitted to the hospital or treated as outpatients or in the emergency department (Hellmich, USA Today, 7/24).
Participants developed complications such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal hernias, infections, pneumonia, respiratory failure and leakage associated with imperfect surgical connections between the stomach and intestines, the study finds.
The study finds that participants had average health care costs of $29,921 for their weight-loss surgeries and six months of subsequent follow-up care. Among participants who experienced complications during their initial hospital stays, average health care costs increased to $36,542, and average costs increased to $65,031 among those readmitted to the hospital within six months to receive treatment for complications, the study finds (Pear, New York Times, 7/24).
Encinosa said, "This is a complex surgery, and for the year after the surgery there will be potential complications that could be costly" (USA Today, 7/24). AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy said, "This study shows how important it is for patients to consider the potential complications" (New York Times, 7/24). However, she added, "The cost of these complications from the surgeries is high, but the cost of the diseases related to obesity is also high" (USA Today, 7/24). An abstract of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.