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Weight Loss Surgery and Cardiovascular Risks

Scott and his colleagues evaluated 9,140 patients to look at cardiovascular benefits. Of these, 4,747 had bariatric surgery, 3,066 had orthopedic surgery, and 1,327 had gastrointestinal surgery. Their ages were 40 to 79.

Other studies have compared gastric bypass patients with those who are also obese but did not have surgery. Scott says comparing bariatric surgery patients to other surgery patients removes some bias.

His study differs from others finding cardiovascular benefits in another way. "We looked at actual events -- heart attacks and stroke." Other studies have looked at risk factors such as high cholesterol, he says.

After five years, 84.8% of the weight loss surgery patients had survived without having a heart attack or stroke, while 72.8% of the orthopedic surgery patients did and 65.8% of the GI surgery patients.

Those who had weight loss surgery had a 28% risk reduction in heart attack, stroke, and death compared to those who had orthopedic surgery. The weight loss patients had a 52% reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, and death when compared to the GI surgery group.

The information is valuable for those pondering weight loss surgery, Scott tells WebMD.

''Bariatric surgery is not to be taken lightly," he says. Adding this new information to existing information should help in decision making, he says.

Among the risks of the surgery are vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, gallstones, and death.

Scott reports receiving speakers' fees from W.L. Gore & Associates, a medical materials manufacturer. He reports funding from Ethicon Endo-Surgery, which makes a gastric band for weight loss surgery.

Weight Loss Surgery, Cardiovascular Risks, and Migraines: Perspective

The heart benefits found in the new study are ''not a huge surprise," says Richard Atkinson, MD, an obesity expert and clinical professor of pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He notes that the difference in survival between groups is ''quite significant."

"It's a valuable study and it yet again shows the benefit of having significant weight loss after bariatric surgery [on death and heart attack and stroke]," he says.

Much less is known about how the surgery affects migraines, Atkinson says.  "This is not an area that has been studied extensively."

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