Number of Bariatric Surgeries Increased by Five Times Between 1998, 2002, Study Finds
The number of bariatric surgeries performed in the United States increased by more than five times between 1998 and 2002, from 13,386 to 71,733, according to a study published in the July/August issue of Health Affairs, the Washington Times reports. For the study -- led by William Encinosa, a senior analyst at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- researchers examined national hospital and health insurance claims data.
The study attributed the increase in bariatric surgeries in part to a reduction in the post-operative mortality rate, which decreased from about 1% in 1998 to 0.32% in 2002. In addition, the length of hospital stays for bariatric surgeries decreased to 3.8 days in 2002, a 24% decrease from 1998, the study found.
However, the study found that the average cost per bariatric surgery increased by 13% between 1998 and 2002, from $11,705 to $13,215. Most patients who received bariatric surgeries between 1998 and 2002 had private health insurance, but Medicare and Medicaid covered the cost of 11% of the procedures in 2002, the study found.
"That means the potential demand for this service is very high, so we expect a much higher use of this surgery in the future," Encinosa said, adding that demand for bariatric surgeries likely would increase if Medicare expanded coverage for the procedure.
Encinosa said that he expects the increase in bariatric surgeries to continue because less than 1% of clinically eligible U.S. patients received the procedure in 2002. An estimated 395,000 U.S. patients ages 65 to 69 will qualify for bariatric surgery in 2005, and an estimated 475,000 will qualify for the procedure by 2010, Encinosa said.
According to anesthesiologist and dietician Christine Gerbstadt, about 20% of patients who receive bariatric surgeries regain their weight (Higgins, Washington Times, 7/12).
The study is available online.