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Gastric Banding: Cheaper Weight Loss Surgery?

Study Suggests Banding Costs Less in Long Run Than Gastric Bypass
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 28, 2011 (San Diego) -- In people with diabetes, gastric banding is associated with fewer complications and lower costs over the long run than gastric bypass, the most commonly performed surgery for obesity in the U.S., researchers say.

Both procedures reduce the amount of care needed and associated health care costs for people with type 2 diabetes in the months immediately following surgery.

But by four years later, heath care use and costs increased for patients who underwent bypass surgery, while continuing to decline among those who got banding, says researcher Jason Lebowitz, a PharmD candidate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Allergan Inc., which makes the Lap-Band laparoscopic gastric banding device, funded the research. It was presented here at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association.

Weight Loss Surgery: Weighing Pros and Cons

Experts say the research shows why it’s important for people considering weight loss surgery to understand the trade-offs.

Other studies have shown that bypass surgery appears to help patients lose more weight and may treat diabetes more effectively than banding, says Philip Schauer, MD,professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. He was not involved with the new work.

Bypass surgery also appears to work well over the long run, he tells WebMD. In a recent study, 89% of people with type 2 diabetes who underwent gastric bypass surgery went into remission and 57% were still in remission after five years.

Bypass may offer more dramatic results because the procedure reroutes digestion, bypassing a portion of the small intestine, he says.

Banding does tend to be safer, at least in the short term: About 1% to 2% of patients have short-term complications, compared to 5% of bypass patients, Schauer says. However, the weight loss from banding procedures is more modest, he says.

"In general, if diabetes is pretty severe, and a patient is on a number of medications, he will need a more powerful procedure such as bypass," Schauer says. "But we’re still trying to understand which procedure works better for which patient. We don't have the right balance defined.”

Bypass Weight Loss Surgery: Higher Costs

Lebowitz and colleagues hypothesized that patients' prescription and medical claims might serve as a proxy for how well each procedure performed over the long run.

So they examined prescription claims and other medical records from nearly 2,900 people with type 2 diabetes who underwent weight loss surgery: 2,537 had bypass surgery and 329 had a banding procedure.

In the year before the procedure, people who underwent banding filled an average of 21 prescriptions; by the year afterward, the number had dropped to 16 and by year four, to 13.

In contrast, people who had bypass surgery filled an average of 28 prescriptions in the year before the procedure; by the year afterward, the number had dropped to 19 and by year four, it crept back up to 20.

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