Gastric Bypass Surgery May Improve Life Expectancy for the Morbidly Obese

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As obesity has officially taken over the number one spot for cause of preventable death, many have taken steps to resume weight loss efforts to improve health and longevity. A new study from the January issue of Archives of Surgery has shown that those who are morbidly obese, can improve life expectancy by achieving weight loss through gastric bypass surgery.

Daniel Schauer and colleagues from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center analyzed data from the 2005 National Inpatient Survey of 399,000 obese patients to model the risks of obesity and benefits of gastric bypass surgery. Over 23,000 patients who had gastric bypass surgery were followed for seven years to determine the effects of the surgery on survival rates.

The authors found that for most patients, surgery and the resultant weight loss increased life expectancy by about 3 years. Women showed a slightly higher life expectancy increase than men. However in both sexes, those who were younger and had higher BMI’s had the best results.

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The research study did have several limitations, noted by the authors. All data for calculating surgery efficacy were from a single state (Utah). Also, the study measured quantity of life expectancy increase, but did not explore quality of life improvements.

Dr. Schaeur writes, "While no large-scale randomized controlled trials have compared bariatric surgery with intensive medical management for the morbidly obese, there is evidence from large controlled trials and numerous case series that bariatric surgery is currently the only effective therapy for promoting clinically significant weight loss and improving obesity-associated conditions among adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher.” He also notes that several studies also suggest that bariatric surgery also improves survival.

Approximately 5.1% of the US population is considered morbidly obese, clinically defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 40. In pounds, this translates into about 100 pounds or more over ideal body weight.

Greater than 65% of all patients seeking bariatric surgery choose the gastric bypass over other procedures. Gastric bypass, also called the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, promotes weight loss through the construction of a small gastric pouch which limits food intake and reducing calories. In addition, the available portion of the small intestine to absorb food is shortened, causing fewer calories to be absorbed and stored as fat. The surgery is often considered the “gold standard” of bariatric surgeries because it has the most proven long-term results for weight loss.

Schauer DP, Arterburn DE, Livingston EH, et al. Decision modeling to estimate the impact of gastric bypass surgery on life expectancy for the treatment of morbid obesity. Archives of Surgery. 2010; 145: 57-62.

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