Is bariatric surgery right for you?

Increasing number of people who are extremely overweight or obese turn to bariatric surgery.

Losing weight and keeping it off is one of the toughest things many of us will ever try to do. When all else fails, an increasing number of people who are extremely overweight or obese turn to bariatric surgery. Typically this kind of surgery is for those who have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or a BMI of 35 in addition to diseases associated with obesity like diabetes or high blood pressure.

A new study, however, suggests that the procedure is effective for patients with a BMI of less than 35 with a relatively low rate of complications. Homerton University Hospital in London examined data from six studies that included more than 500 “mildly obese” patients who had bariatric surgery. These patients had BMIs between 30 and 35 and were on average 30 to 60 pounds overweight.

The review found significant weight loss and the resolution of many of the patients’ related diseases. Follow-up ranged from a few months to five years. There were some complications including one death due to a secondary infection nearly two years after surgery. Other complications included one patient who developed wound infection and 20 who developed band slippage. Fifteen of those required further surgery.

Some insurance companies will cover the surgeries when the patients are obese, meaning those who have BMIs above 40 or BMIs above 35 with related diseases. Weight loss after one year averaged to be 52 to 78 pounds after the first year to around 70 pounds after 5 years.

Here in the U.S., however, a recent study fell short of recommending bariatric surgery for less obese patients. Researchers at David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said they would like to see more large studies showing the benefits to this group longer term.


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