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Bariatric Surgery Does Not Improve Survival

by Lisa Nainggolan ,  The Heart.org | 2011-06-13

Seattle, WA - A new study in Veterans Affairs (VA) patients has found no survival benefit associated with bariatric surgery among older, severely obese people when compared with usual care, at least out to seven years. Dr Matthew L Maciejewski (Durham VA Medical Centers, Durham, NC) presented the findings here yesterday at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, and they were published simultaneously in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Maciejewski told heartwire that doctors "should counsel their patients that there are numerous significant benefits to bariatric surgery—including the fact that it's the most effective weight-loss treatment, and it improves the control of chronic conditions and quality of life—but there doesn't appear to be a survival benefit at nearly seven years." It is possible that there will be a survival benefit longer term, he says, and his group is continuing to follow these patients and add in others who have had surgery more recently.

The new findings contrast with those of prior studies, many of which have shown survival benefits with bariatric surgery, but most of which have examined outcomes in younger, primarily white, and female populations, said Maciejewski. But obesity-related mortality is highest in men and minority patients, who have high rates of comorbid diseases, and this is the first study that has looked at long-term survival in such high-risk patients, he points out.

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