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Weight Loss Surgery Risks

Posted Nov 27 2012 6:40am

Weight loss surgery risks always seem to be downplayed for people looking at losing weight. A couple years ago my wife was considering weight loss surgery as her years off dieting and exercise and the yoyo weight loss/gain nightmare had mad her tired of the whole weight loss industry. Using Weight Watchers and getting the exercise to a more moderate lvel have helped Michelle lose three pounds or so per week and she is quickly dropping the weight that was so stubborn just a couple of years back.

Yesterday Michelle got a call for the gastric bypass surgery consultation which here in Alberta Canada takes 19 months, I am happy to say that she turned it down because a healthy lifestyle has maed the difference for her. As you probably know there are a lot of instances where this surgery is really helpful for people but only in cases where there is a risk of imminent death by now doing something as drastic as this surgery is.

I have found an article from Bloomberg that I think really shows the importance of this surgery and the possible weight loss surgery risks. Below are some exerpts from that article.

The surge in weight loss surgery in the U.S. may be putting obese people at higher risk for illness and death than is generally known, three studies report.

More than 100,000 Americans underwent bariatric surgery to reduce weight in 2003, an eight-fold increase in five years, researchers report in the Oct. 19 Journal of the American Medical Association. A separate analysis of Medicare patients published in the same issue found that 4.6 percent of patients undergoing the procedure died nationwide a year after, some from the weight loss surgery risks.

The researchers said the findings on weight loss surgery risks may help obese people gauge the weight loss surgery risks as compared to health problems caused by being overweight. The operations can help patients shed more than half their unwanted weight and can reverse diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep problems, researchers said.

This is not a vanity operation, it’s a high-risk operation,” said David R. Flum, associate professor of surgery and public health at the University of Washington in Seattle. “This at least allows people who are considering this surgery to go in a little bit more with their eyes open.

Researchers said they expect 130,000 bariatric surgeries to be performed in the U.S. this year. The procedure is considered the only proven method to reduce extreme weight, the researchers said.

Gastric bypass was the most common procedure used in the studies. Surgeons make a small stomach pouch to restrict the amount of food that can be eaten and connect it to the lower part of the small intestine to limit digestion and absorption of calories. The operation can reduce weight in some cases by almost 100 pounds.

Medicare patients may be most vulnerable to the weight loss surgery risks. Death rates were highest for men older than 65, with more than one in 10 dying within a year of surgery. Dying within a month was twice as likely after obesity surgery than with heart surgery or hip replacement, found the study of all 16,155 Medicare beneficiaries who had the operation from 1997 to 2002.

“That is significantly higher than most people expect when they think of obesity surgery,” Flum said. “Patients are at higher risk for having bad things happen after surgery because of their advanced age or other conditions.”

Death rates plunged even among the highest risk patients in the hands of experienced surgeons, the study found.

If we’re going to do this operation at all in patients 65 and older, it should really be done in places that can deliver the lowest risks to the patient,Flum said.

All patients should expect hospitalizations after surgery because of weight loss surgery risks, another study from the University of California at Los Angeles found. The number of hospital stays more than doubled in the year after surgery compared with the year earlier, scuttling hopes that better health after the operation would lessen health care needs, researchers said.

Almost 8 percent of patients were hospitalized, mostly for obesity-related problems like arthritis, in the year before surgery, a review of all 60,000 patients getting the operation from 1995 to 2004 in California found. In the following 12 months, almost 20 percent were hospitalized, often for surgical complications.

With the number of surgeries increasing and the number of patients considering surgery, they should be truly informed about what they are undergoing,” said lead researcher David S. Zingmond, assistant professor of medicine at the UCLA’s School of Medicine. While many patients lose 60 to 100 pounds, “those pounds come at a price for some people, he said.

The rate declined to 14.9 percent three years after surgery, with most hospitalizations triggered by the need for plastic surgery to remove excess skin or elective procedures such as back and knee surgery that were postponed because of the excess weight.

The researchers originally anticipated that use of health care services would decline following surgery. Now, they say insurance companies and patients should be aware that hospitalization rates may be elevated for up to five years because of the weight loss surgery risks.

None of the studies examined the effectiveness of surgery, which the researchers agreed is the best weight loss method for obese people. Even with rising surgery rates, less than 1 percent of people who qualify undergo it, wrote surgeons Bruce M. Wolfe, from Oregon Health Science University in Portland and John M. Morton, of Stanford University in California, in an editorial.

“There are vulnerable patient populations and potential additional costs associated with surgery,” they wrote. “Bariatric surgery may be a potentially life-saving intervention in the right patients and in the right surgeons’ hands.”

To contact the reporter on this story Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net

So what are your experiences? I know that there are lots of supporters of this surgery as well as many people that are opposed almost completely to it. Are the weight loss surgery risks worth it?


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