Obese Patients Who Get Bariatric Surgery Live Longer, Healthier Lives, Studies Find
Extremely obese people who have gastric-bypass surgery to lose weight may live longer than obese people who do not have the procedure, according to two recent studies on bariatric surgery, USA Today reports. For the first study, published in October's Journal of the American College of Surgeons, University of Washington School of Medicine researchers analyzed the health records of 66,109 obese patients who had been admitted to a hospital over a 15-year period. In the study, 3,328 patients received a gastric-bypass operation. The study found one in 50 patients receiving the surgery died within 30 days -- past studies have reported one in 200 to one in 500 die in that time period.
The study found that about 3% of patients younger than 40 who received the operation died within 13.6 years, compared with 13.8% of those who had not received the procedure; 11.8% of all gastric-bypass patients died after 15 years, compared with 16.3% of patients who had not had the procedure. According to lead researcher David Flum, gastric-bypass patients risk dying during or after the procedure, but those who survive seem to live longer and often experience improvements in diabetes, heart disease, lung function and other weight-related medical problems. Previous clinical studies found lower risks of dying because the procedures involved "the best surgeons in the country presenting their best results," Flum said, adding that his study found patients are five times as likely to die if their surgeon has little experience. Flum, a gastrointestinal surgeon at UWSM, also noted, "A limitation of the study is we don't know if the people who get the surgery are healthier or sicker than those who don't."
Another study, led by researchers at McGill University Health Centre, compared 1,035 morbidly obese patients who had undergone bariatric surgery with 5,746 similarly overweight patients who had not had the procedure. According to the study, which was published in September's Annals of Surgery, gastric-bypass patients lost 67% of their excess weight and -- after adjusting for the different numbers of participants of the study groups -- had an 89% reduced risk of death compared with the other patients. Lead researcher Nicolas Christou, head of general surgery at McGill, said, "If you take obese people and invest some money in this surgery, you are going to save lives."
Samuel Klein of UWSM's Center for Human Nutrition noted that while both studies have limitations, "[t]hey suggest that bariatric surgery improves long-term survival in extremely obese patients, but there is an increased risk upfront" (Hellmich, USA Today, 10/6). The UWSM study is available online. An abstract of the McGill study is also available online.