Weight-Loss Surgeries Can Restore Health for Obese Patients, Analysis Finds
Weight-loss surgeries can alleviate type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure and cure obstructive sleep apnea in severely obese patients, according to a new analysis of 136 studies published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Los Angeles Times reports. The analysis, funded by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that manufacturers surgical instruments, combined data from 136 studies involving 22,094 patients between 1990 and 2003 (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 10/13). Dr. Henry Buchwald, a surgeon at the University of Minnesota and consultant to the J&J subsidiary, led the study (Tanner, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/13). The analysis found that:
- Patients who underwent weight-loss surgery typically lost more than 60% of their excess weight, often more than 100 pounds;
- Diabetes was eliminated in almost 77% of those patients;
- Cholesterol levels declined in at least 70% of patients;
- High blood pressure was alleviated for nearly 62% of patients; and
- Obstructive sleep apnea was cured or improved in 83.6% of affected patients.
Eight million people in the United States are more than 100 pounds overweight, and weight-loss surgeries currently are being conducted on 1% to 2% of eligible patients, according to Buchwald. The number of performed procedures, which cost at least $25,000, has increased from about 25,000 in 1998 to an estimated 144,000 this year, according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Most insurance companies pay for the gastric bypass procedures but do not cover banding surgeries, and federal officials announced in July that guidelines would be revised to classify obesity as an illness, opening the possibility that Medicare could cover the procedures in the future. Dr. Erik Dutson of the University of California-Los Angeles said, "The overwhelming majority of patients responded positively," adding, "This is a huge chunk of data that gives us very strong indications of what the reality is" (Los Angeles Times, 10/13). 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.