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Posts Tagged ‘Mortality Rates’

Weight Loss Surgery Even Safer Than Previously Thought

Posted by Lori on July 29, 2009

Oh, here’s a weight loss surgery study with great news for bariatric patients in general, and Lap Band patients specifically. The risks of death or complications from weight loss surgery is much lower than expected – particularly for Lap Band patients.

Now, a word to the wise for people looking at the safety rate. Weight loss surgery is frequently performed on severely obese and critically ill patients in a last ditch attempt to save their life, as happened for Lorraine Kay. Lorraine’s primary care physician wanted a gastric bypass because she was so ill that he didn’t think that she would lose weight fast enough with a Lap Band for it to save her life, but her surgeon didn’t think she would survive the surgery and wanted to perform a Lap Band instead. Her surgeon won out and Lorraine now weighs 125, her diabetes is in remission and her blood pressure back to normal – this from a woman in her late fifties, who weighed over 300 pounds, used 120 units of insulin a day and was weeks away from dying.  So, these patients are frequently in real trouble when they go into surgery in the first place.

That being said, the numbers for weight loss surgery in general, are no higher than they are for other types of surgery:

Weight-loss surgery isn’t risk-free, but a new study suggests that in the hands of a skilled surgeon, it may be safer than previously thought. However, some people — including those with sleep apnea or a history of blood clots — are more likely to have problems with surgery than others, according to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Weight-loss surgery is safer, but could cause complications for people with sleep apnea or a history of blood clots.

Weight-loss surgery is safer, but could cause complications for people with sleep apnea or a history of blood clots.

“The overall conclusion that we reached is that bariatric-surgery safety is actually quite good,” said Dr. Bruce Wolfe, a professor of surgery at the Oregon Health and Science University.

In the past, bariatric procedures have been associated with death rates of 2 to 3 percent and complication rates of up to 24 percent. However, the obesity epidemic is fueling a rise in such surgeries, prompting concerns about their safety. In 2005, 171,000 people underwent bariatric surgery, more than 10 times the number that had the procedure in 1994.

To assess the safety of such operations, Wolfe and his colleagues looked at 4,776 patients in the first month after having a bariatric procedure. They found that 4.3 percent of patients had a serious problem, such as a blood clot or needing another operation, and 0.3 percent, or 15 patients, died within a month after surgery — a complication rate similar to other types of surgery.

Ahhh, but the news is even better for Lap Band patients – from another article on the same study:

“Nobody died within 30 days of the banding technique…”

As for the major complications:

The overall likelihood of major complications, including death, blood clots or the need for follow-up surgery, showed a similar pattern. It was 1 percent for banding, 4.8 percent for laparoscopic bypass and 7.8 percent for open bypass.

Wolfe said the pattern is not surprising because surgeons will not try laparoscopic bypass on patients with many risk factors. When they adjusted for risk factors, the chance of major complications was much more comparable between both types of Roux-en-Y bypass.

Dr. Malcolm Robinson of Harvard Medical School said in a commentary the complication rates ‘are similar to those seen in other major operations’ but since the study involved 33 U.S. surgeons certified as highly skilled, the results ‘may not be widely reproducible.’

Lastly:

Both Robinson and Wolfe recommend that any person considering bariatric surgery should choose a facility that’s been designated as a “Center of Excellence” because that means that the surgeon and the whole health-care team are qualified and experienced.

Here is Dr. Wolfe talking about how weight loss surgery allows people to live longer:

“[Research suggests that] surgery increases survival and makes people live longer, even taking into account mortalities,” said Wolfe.

That’s what it all comes down to – you have family and friends who love you and want you to live a long life. Think about your own sadness about the people who have left before you. If you kids or a spouse, you want them to feel that for as few years as possible. Weight loss surgery allows you to live longer and live happier – and that’s worth it.

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