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Best and worst hospitals ranked for stomach-reduction surgeries

Dominika Osmolska Psy.D.'s picture

As weight loss surgeries become increasingly popular, consumers wishing to undergo the procedures need to weigh risks of the surgery itself versus the gains made by the eventual weight reduction. The complications from bariatric surgeries (popularly known as “stomach stapling”) could include internal bleeding, a collapsed lung and even death. In light of such possibilities, a patient facing such a surgery will be well-served by a ranking of the best and worst hospitals for outcomes.

HealthGrades, an independent health care ratings company, rated a total of 468 hospitals in 19 states. One hundred hospitals were ranked as poor performers and given one star, while 107 were ranked excellent with a five-star rating. Another 261 hospitals were ranked in the middle with three stars to their names.

The single most important factor in bariatric surgery success was the number of surgeries performed – in other words, frequency of practice. Hospitals that perform at least 375 weight loss operations a year have the best safety record for bariatric surgeries, while those that performed fewer than 75 a year had the highest rate of complications. The report gives people objective results on which they can base their decision, instead of word-of-mouth or convenience, such as geographical proximity.

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Facilities with a five star rating boasted a 70 percent less likelihood for complications, shorter hospital stays and, surprisingly, smaller bills, saving on average $6,692 compared to patients who checked into a "1-star" hospital.

Facilities given a five-star rating included Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Los Angeles, Saint Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Lowell General Hospital in Boston, Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and Bayshore Medical Center in Houston.

One-star facilities included University of California, Irvine, or Staten Island University, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, Temple Community Hospital in Los Angeles, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Weight loss surgery is sometimes advised for people who are obese and suffer debilitating complications from the condition, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, uncontrolled cholesterol, heart problems, and even, in extreme cases, physical immobility. The surgery helps a patient by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold and thereby limits the amount of calories absorbed. Like any surgery, however, it carries risks.

The reassuring news is that the average complication rates for all hospitals studied were still very low, ranging from 0.83 percent for hemorrhage to 0.05 percent for death.