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Obesity Surgery Is Much Riskier Than Previously Thought

A study published in the October 19, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that the risks associated with obesity surgery (technically known as bariatric surgery) are higher than previously thought. The study shows that the obesity surgery, which is a very drastic way to lose weight, is far more dangerous and involves considerably higher risks of death than previously thought.

Previous studies showed that the risk of death for this elective surgery was well under 1 percent. This new study shows that among those ages 35 to 44, within one year after surgery, 5 percent of men and 3 percent of women were dead. The study also shows that the risk increases with age. Patients from 65 to 74 who receive this surgery are at a much higher risk. In this age group 13 percent of men and 6 percent of women died within one year after the surgery. The study, involved 16,155 Medicare patients who underwent obesity surgery between 1997 and 2002

University of Washington surgeon Dr. David Flum, lead author of the study noted, "The risk of death is much higher than has been reported." He continued, "It's a reality check for those patients who are considering these operations."

Presently the number of these types of surgeries have been increasing rapidly over recent years. The American Society for Bariatric Surgery predicts obesity surgery will be performed more than 150,000 times this year.

The conclusions of the authors published in JAMA were, "Among Medicare beneficiaries, the risk of early death after bariatric surgery is considerably higher than previously suggested and associated with advancing age, male sex, and lower surgeon volume of bariatric procedures. Patients aged 65 years or older had a substantially higher risk of death within the early postoperative period than younger patients."