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Death Rates of Obese Remain High After Bariatric Surgery

'Excess' of suicides observed, though coronary heart disease remains the leading killer overall

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Obese patients who undergo bariatric surgery have substantially higher death rates than the average population, with especially elevated risks of coronary heart disease and suicide, researchers report in the October issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Bennet I. Omalu, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues reviewed public health and death records for all Pennsylvania residents who had undergone bariatric surgeries between 1995 and 2004. The sample included 16,683 operations performed in 74 hospitals.

Of the 440 deaths recorded during the study period, the one-year case fatality rate was approximately 1 percent and the five-year rate was nearly 6 percent, with less than 1 percent of deaths occurring within the first 30 days. Of the 45 deaths due to trauma, 16 (4 percent) were attributed to suicide and 14 (3 percent) were attributed to drug overdose.

"There is a great deal of overlap between obesity and mental health disorders," noted an accompanying critique by Edward H. Livingston, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "This overlap has received little attention in the bariatric surgery literature, and the high suicide/drug overdose death rate observed by Omalu and colleagues suggests that much more research into the behavioral aspects of bariatric surgical patients is needed."

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