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Studies Weigh Risks of Gastric Bypass Surgery

Long-Term Benefits of Gastric Bypass Surgery Seem to Outweigh Short-term Risks
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Long-Term Benefits of Gastric Bypass Surgery Pay Off

However, the study also showed that obese people who had gastric bypass surgery had a much lower risk of death over the long-term. After 15 years of follow up, 16% of obese people who did not have gastric bypass surgery died compared with 12% of those who did.

The long-term benefits of gastric bypass surgery in reducing the risk of death were greatest among young patients who were under 40 and the morbidly obese. After more than 13 years of follow up, only 3% of those who had the procedure died compared with 14% of morbidly obese people who did not have the procedure.

"The bottom line is that bariatric surgery, specifically gastric bypass, is a complicated operation in a complicated group of people," Flum tells WebMD. "When it's effective, it's very effective, but it has some real risks."

The second study, which appears in the September issue of the Annals of Surgery, also showed that gastric bypass surgery significantly reduced the risk of death over the long-term among morbidly obese people.

Canadian researchers followed more than 5,000 morbidly obese people who did not have surgery and compared them with nearly 1,000 morbidly obese people who had a gastric bypass between 1996 and 2002.

After five years of follow up, the study showed that 0.68% of those who had gastric bypass surgery died compared with 6% of the others, which translates to an 89% reduction in the risk of death.

The study also showed that people who had gastric bypass surgery had lower risks of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental disorders compared with those who didn't.

Choose Your Surgeon Wisely

Klein says the results of these studies confirm that gastric bypass surgery is a complicated procedure that comes with a certain degree of risk that should not be taken lightly.

Flum's study shows that there is a learning curve for surgeons who perform gastric bypass surgery. But Klein says once surgeons have gained experience and performed more than 20 procedures, the short-term risk of death is much lower and closer to 0.5%, as reported in previous studies, than the 1.9% found in this study.

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