Bariatric Surgery Could Become Treatment For Diabetes

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Physicians "who have turned surgery into a popular treatment forobesity are setting their sights on a burgeoning new market: diabetespatients," the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal,diabetes can "quickly recede" when bariatric surgery "alters theintestinal tract and diverts food away" from hormones in the smallintestine that help regulate blood sugar levels. Studies have foundthat more than 75% of type 2 diabetes patients who undergo bariatricsurgery no longer experience symptoms and no longer require insulin orother medications.

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"The idea that you could induce long-termremission in diabetic patients without medication is unprecedented,"Francesco Rubino, a surgeon at Catholic University in Rome, said.Bariatric surgery, which costs about $25,000, serves as a "big profitcenter" for many hospitals, and, in the event that diabetes patientsbegin to undergo the procedure, "it would bring a gusher of newbusiness," according to the Journal.

However,supporters and critics of bariatric surgery "say it's too early torecommend it for the broad mass of diabetics" because the procedure canlead to a number of serious complications and because a number of othereffective, noninvasive treatments exist, the Journal reports. Richard Hellman, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, said, "As a primary treatment for diabetes, it simply doesn't measure up very well" (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 8/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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