A recent report in General Surgery News from October 2012, reports that bariatric operations are among the most common operations being performed by general surgeons. This is a result of a study done at University of California, Irvine that researched the health systems data base to compare bariatric operations with other general surgery procedures. They found that bariatric procedures were the most common procedures performed and also among the safest with complications rates similar to other common operations such as: appendectomy, anti-reflux surgery, ventral hernia repair, colectomy, cholecystectomy and rectal resection. Most notably was that the in hospital mortality rate (the risk of dying from the procedure) was among the lowest for bariatric surgery and was measured at 0.06%.  

This study underscores the safety of bariatric operations and also highlights how common they are becoming. Bariatric procedures are not the rare and complicated operations that they were once felt to be. They are a common procedure and a routine part of many general surgical practices.

 The result of the increase of use and study of bariatric procedures in recent years appears to be resulting in significantly reduced rates of postoperative complications and mortality rates, as evident by this study. This is great news for people suffering from morbid obesity. They now have very safe, reliable and routine operations to aid in their treatment.

 A new study reported in the American College Of Surgery Magazine, Surgery New for August 2012, reveals the reports of a large study done reviewing nearly 300,000 patients and investigates the safety and efficacy of bariatric procedures.

The article quotes the study directly, Dr. John M. Morton, as stating that his work “shows that across the board regardless of the procedure bariatric surgery is safe and effective.” He specifically highlights that “The emerging new procedure, the sleeve gastrectomy, is shown to be right between the bypass and the band. As a result, we have seen more interest from payers to cover it.”

Dr. Morton did his study using patient data acquired BOLD (Bariatric Outcomes Longitudinal Database). This included patient data on laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy between 2007 and 2010.

The study showed that the rate of 30 day serious complications for the gastric bypass was 1.25%, sleeve gastrectomy 0.96%, and gastric banding 0.25%. The rate of death in the first 30 days following these procedures is 0.14%, 0.08%, and 0.03% respectively. This underscores the safety of all three procedures, showing that serious complications occur in only about 1% of bariatric patients and death from procedures in less of 1/10 of 1% of patients on average.

 Dr. Morton hopes that this new safety data for the sleeve gastrectomy will convenience CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to pay for the sleeve gastrectomy. Currently Medicare and Medicaid are some of the few remaining insurers that do not cover sleeve gastrectomy. CMS is currently considering including sleeve gastrectomy as a covered benefit.

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