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For Some, Gastric Bypass May Be a Lifesaver
 Weight Management Feature Story

For Some, Gastric Bypass May Be a Lifesaver
Weight-loss surgery shown to add years to the very obese

For Some, Gastric Bypass May Be a Lifesaver (HealthDay News) -- People who are very obese might gain as many as three additional years of life by having gastric bypass surgery.

That projection, published in the Archives of Surgery, came from researchers who reviewed data on more than 23,000 people who'd had weight-loss surgery. They found that for the very obese -- someone with a body mass index of 40 or higher -- the benefits of the surgery generally outweigh the risks.

"The patients who benefit the most are younger patients who have a lower risk of dying from the surgery and a higher BMI," Dr. Daniel P. Schauer, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, told HealthDay. "The patients who benefit the least are older patients with a higher surgical risk because of a combination of age and comorbidities [other illnesses]."

Millions of people in the United States are overweight or obese, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The consequences of obesity include increased chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some types of cancer, the report noted.

Various types of bariatric surgery, or weight-loss surgery, can be done, including one type known as gastric bypass. In this procedure, the stomach is made significantly smaller, and a portion of the intestine is rerouted to bypass the remaining part of the stomach, according to the JAMA report.

This type of surgery is usually performed only on people who are very obese, with a BMI of 40 and needing to lose at least 100 pounds. As with any surgery, experts say, there are risks and benefits that should be considered carefully.

"In the future, we plan on having a Web-based decision support tool," Schauer said.

That tool will use data from the study reported in JAMA as well as models that Schauer and his colleagues are working on. In the study, the researchers compared the immediate risk for death from surgery to the years of life expectancy added by undergoing the procedure.

They found that a 42-year-old woman with a BMI of 45 would get about three additional years of life expectancy by having the surgery. A 44-year-old man with the same BMI would get an additional 2.6 years of life, the study found.

The current model doesn't control for other conditions, such as heart disease, Schauer said, adding that researchers "are working on that for the next generation of models."

Dr. T. Karl Byrne, professor of surgery and director of bariatric surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, told HealthDay that cost benefits and health improvements from weight-loss surgery also need to be considered.

For example, someone with type 2 diabetes costs the health-care system about $13,000 a year, he noted. And, if someone with type 2 diabetes has bariatric surgery, the diabetes often goes away. So in addition to more years of life, there is a significant cost-savings, he said.

On the Web

To learn more about weight-loss surgeries, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Daniel P. Schauer, M.D., assistant professor, internal medicine, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, Cincinnati; T. Karl Byrne, M.D., professor, surgery, and director, bariatric surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.; January 2010, Archives of Surgery; Feb. 10, 2010, Journal of the American Medical Association

Author: Serena Gordon

Publication Date: Jan. 31, 2011

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