Weight Loss Surgery Makes Life Better for Obese
Gastric Bypass Boosts Mental, Physical Health -- but Complications Common
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
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%
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.
"After gastric bypass surgery, people describe dramatic, life-altering
changes. They feel like they have gotten their lives back," Kolotkin tells
WebMD. "They feel vastly more able to have good quality of life and are not
so focused on health and weight. They have more energy. They feel better day to
day. They feel more productive at work, more sexy, more like going out and
being with people and being physically active."
The difference may have been even greater than the study measured. Kolotkin
says surgery patients told her that before surgery, they hadn't fully realized
the impact their obesity had on their lives.