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Gastric Bypass Surgeries Soaring

The number of Americans undergoing these procedures grew four-fold between 1998 and 2002, study finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The number of gastric bypass and other bariatric surgeries conducted in the United States more than quadrupled between 1998 to 2002, from 12,775 procedures to 70,256, researchers report.

And experts at the American Society for Bariatric Surgey estimate that that number may have doubled again since then, to more than 140,000 bariatric procedures performed in 2004.

"The observed increase in bariatric surgery rates is related in part to an increase in the utilization of the laparoscopic technique by surgeons and greater acceptance by patients of the minimally invasive option," the study authors conclude in the December issue of Archives of Surgery.

Bariatric surgery is the only effective sustained method of weight loss for people who are morbidly obese, according to the University of California, Irvine researchers who conducted the study.

They believe the dramatic increase in bariatric surgery in recent years is linked to the increasing use of minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques.

The California group pored over data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for the years covered by the study.

They report that laparoscopic bariatric surgeries increased from 2.1 percent to 17.9 percent of all bariatric surgeries between 1998 and 2002. A technique called "roux-en-Y" gastric bypass increased from 78 percent to include 92 percent of all bariatric surgeries over that same period. The number of institutions in the United States that perform bariatic surgery also increased from 131 in 1998 to 323 in 2002.

"Although most patients currently seeking bariatric surgery are requesting the laparoscopic approach, not all patients qualify for the laparoscopic technique and not all surgeons are comfortable with performing laparoscopic bariatric surgery," the study authors wrote. "The medical community now recognizes that morbid obesity is a chronic illness and that surgery can substantially reduce obesity-related illnesses and improve one's quality of life."

"Without a long-term, effective non-surgical treatment for morbid obesity on the horizon, the rate of bariatric surgery will continue to increase and the procedure will become one of the most commonly performed gastrointestinal operations," they added.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about bariatric surgery.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 19, 2005
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