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Weight Loss Surgery Makes Life Better for Obese

Gastric Bypass Boosts Mental, Physical Health -- but Complications Common
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 17, 2005 - Gastric bypass surgery greatly improves a person's quality of life, but it isn't a bed of roses, new studies show.

A spate of new studies gives a clearer picture of the risks and benefits of weight loss surgery. The studies also raise the question of what increasing numbers of patients mean for American society.

Three of the studies and two editorials on the issue appear in the Oct. 19 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The publication is timed for release during this week's annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) in Vancouver, Canada.

Editorialist Bruce M. Wolfe, MD, professor of surgery at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, says that despite a lot of media discussion, facts on weight loss surgery have been hard to come by.

"Being severely overweight is life threatening and associated with many related diseases," Wolfe tells WebMD. "Major weight loss is beneficial to these patients. That isn't very controversial. The primary issue is this: Can weight loss achieved by surgery be done safely, or are the risks and complications of the surgery such that this intervention should not be applied?"

Life Quality After Weight Loss Surgery

Psychologist Ronette Kolotkin, PhD, wondered whether people who undergo weight loss surgery actually benefit. She led a team that looked at three matched groups of obese people: 223 gastric bypass surgery patients, 110 people denied weight loss surgery by their insurance providers, and a comparison group of 189 people who did not seek obesity surgery.

Two years after surgery, patients averaged a 34% drop in body weight, Kolotkin reported at the NAASO meeting. Those denied surgery managed to lose 6.2% of their body weight, and those who did not seek surgery got 0.6% heavier.

All of the study subjects filled out quality-of-life questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study. Nearly all the surgery patients -- 98% of them -- reported meaningful increases in their quality of life. This was true for only 46% of those denied surgery and for only 30% of the comparison group.

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