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How to Predict Obesity Surgery Risk

New Method Lets Doctors Identify Which Patients Are at High Risk for Death

'No Big Surprise'

The risk assessment tool can help patients better understand their specific risk. But DeMaria and Schauer agree that being 'high risk' doesn't mean that a patient should not have weight loss surgery.

In fact, these are the patients who could benefit most, they say, because their risk of death is already so high.

"It is no big surprise that these patients have a high surgical risk," DeMaria tells WebMD. "These are the patients who more than likely have co-morbid conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so their nonsurgical risk is probably pretty high, too."

Schauer cites a recent study that followed gastric bypass patients for eight years after surgery and compared them to morbidly obese people who did not have weight loss surgery. Even with surgical deaths, the bypass patients had a 65% lower mortality rate.

"When patients talk to their doctors about the risks of having surgery, they also need to talk about the risks of not having surgery," he says.

The Earlier the Better?

The observations could also be used to reassure patients who fall into the low-risk category and to help patients and their doctors assess the impact of delaying surgery, DeMaria says.

The mortality rate among low-risk patients in his newly reported study was 0.2% to 0.3%.

"That is very, very low risk," he says. "From a population standpoint it argues in favor of giving up the notion that people should be on death's door before they have weight loss surgery. It makes more sense to offer it to patients who are younger and healthier before they develop the health problems that are associated with the disease of obesity."

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