Bariatric Surgery Safe for Many Older Patients

Study finds no difference in post-op complications or death based on age, Medicare status

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MONDAY, June 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Bariatric surgery to treat morbid obesity is safe for carefully selected, older people and Medicare patients, according to a U.S. study in the June issue of the journal Archives of Surgery.

Researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland analyzed data on almost 900 patients who had gastric bypass surgery from 1998 to 2006.

The patients were divided into four groups, including 46 patients who were 60 to 66 years old and 846 patients who were 18 to 59 years old. The other two groups included 31 Medicare recipients (ages 31 to 66) and 861 non-Medicare patients (ages 18 to 64).

When comparing younger and older patients, the study found that older patients spent an average of average of 17 minutes less in the operating room but spent a half-day longer in hospital than the younger patients. There was no significant difference in rates of postoperative complications or death between the two groups.

There were no deaths in the older group within 30 days, 90 days or one year after the surgery. In comparison, there were three deaths in the younger group within 30 days and one more death within a year.

When they compared Medicare and non-Medicare patients, the researchers found that Medicare patients had a greater average body mass index (BMI), spent an average of 14 minutes longer in the operation room, and lingered an average of a day-and-a-half longer in hospital.

No Medicare patients died within 30 days, 90 days or one year after surgery, while three non-Medicare patients died within 30 days and another died within a year.

"Bariatric surgery can be performed in carefully selected Medicare recipients and patients 60 years or older with acceptable morbidity and mortality," the study authors concluded. "We believe that these results reflect careful patient selection, intensive preoperative education and expert operative and perioperative management. Our results indicate that bariatric surgery should not be denied solely based on age or Medicare status."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about gastrointestinal surgery for severe obesity.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, June 18, 2007

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