Weight-Loss Surgeries Safe at Teaching Hospitals

Academic medical centers have less than a 1 percent post-surgery death rate, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, May 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of dying within 30 days of weight-loss surgery is less than 1 percent for patients who have the surgery done at an academic medical center, a U.S. study shows.

Bariatric surgeries such as gastric banding or bypass have become increasingly popular, say researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

Reporting in the May issue of the journal Archives of Surgery, they analyzed the medical records of 1,144 patients who had bariatric surgery at 29 U.S. academic medical centers between Oct. 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004. The patients were ages 17 to 65 and had a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 70 (a BMI of 30 is considered the threshold for obesity).

Most of the patients (91.7 percent) had gastric bypass surgery, in which a small portion of the stomach is sectioned off into a pouch that connects directly to the small intestine. Seventy-five percent of these bypass surgeries were performed laparoscopically -- the surgeon does the procedure using a laparoscope inserted through small incisions.

About 8 percent of the patients had restrictive procedures, including gastric banding. This involves placement of a band-like device around the stomach, which divides the stomach into two smaller compartments. Ninety-two percent of the restrictive procedures were performed laparoscopically.

Among the patients in the study who had gastric bypass, four (0.4 percent) died within 30 days of the procedure. Sixteen percent developed complications, including wound infection, pneumonia, irregular heartbeat, intestinal obstruction, urinary tract infection, or leakage at the "anastomosis site" -- the suture line at the newly-created attachment site of the stomach and intestine.

The 30-day death rate for patients who received restrictive procedures was 0 percent and the complication rate was 3.2 percent.

"This analysis demonstrates that bariatric surgery at predominately high-volume academic centers and in a subset of patients with BMI of 35 to 70 is associated with low morbidity and mortality," the study authors concluded.

"The practice of bariatric surgery at academic centers has shifted from open surgery to laparoscopic surgery, with gastric bypass the primary bariatric surgical procedure," the authors added.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about bariatric surgery.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, May 15, 2006

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