Saturday, February 23, 2013

Weight Loss surgery does not reduce health care costs in the long term.

A long term study on weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery or WLS)  found no reduction in health care costs on the long term.   The study was reported on, in a recent issue of JAMA Surgery (2013).  The researchers found higher health care costs in the long term with surgery than with treating obesity, medically.

This is nothing new, of course.

Wrote the researchers in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Assn) in 2003 that Short term results of surgery are impressive... BUT

"...long-term consequences remain uncertain. Issues such as whether weight loss is maintained and the long-term effects of altering nutrient absorption remain unresolved."
 This has not changed and yet they are still doing 200,000 of these surgeries a year on people who are desperate and frightened by scare tactics about obesity which are, in NO WAY, supported by studies.

On the contrary, studies have found no direct link between obesity along and morbidity!
And this was the shocking findings of Glenn Gaesser, a slim exercise physiologist who examined 20 years of "obesity studies" but his findings and the findings of many others, have been all but ignored by the mass media, anxious to sell diets and surgery for obesity using scare tactics.  Gaesser wrote his results in his book, BIG FAT LIES, a must read for everyone!

The findings of the 2013 study may be because WLS adds health care issues which may be as bad or worse than what it sometimes cures. Additionally, if the patients do not diet and exercise after surgery, they regain the weight in which case they now have the health issues associated with rearranging or interfering with major digestive organs in addition to obesity.

The Association of Bariatric Surgeons (WLS surgeons) had not much in the way of comment other than suggesting not all things may have been taken in consideration or - what I call um...questionable to be polite - that most of the procedures in the study were done open (with a large incision) rather than laparoscopically (using "keyhole" surgery).

What they hope we forget is that first of all, with keyhole surgery, surgeons cannot see as well as they can with open procedures because they are operating with a 2 dimensional view rather than a 3 dimensional view as in open surgery.  So on the gastric bypass - and those complex surgeries which rearrange digestive organs, open procedures are less troublesome in the long term - the only advantage of lap surgery is the immediate healing of the incision.  This would not have affected the long term results of any study or would have caused the long term results to show more favorably because most of the procedures were performed open.

And second, this type of result has been found in every long term study done on weight loss (bariatric) surgery.

Bottom line - surgery is not effective in maintaining weight loss in patients unless they diet (i.e. count their calories or restrict food in some other way) and exercise.  But those behaviors will take weight off without surgery and without all the complications and long term repercussions of surgery.  

Al Roker, a gastric bypass patient, told the "Today Show" that in order to keep off his weight, he not only journals his food and counts his calories every day but he also runs 5 miles several times a week!

With regards to the latest study, a weight loss surgery surgeon, Dr Livingston (who when, last I spoke with him, is proudly not a member of the ASBMS), commented:

"Bariatric surgery has dramatic short-term results, but on a population level, its outcomes are far less impressive. In this era of tight finances and inevitable rationing of healthcare resources, bariatric surgery should be viewed as an expensive resource that can help some patients."

"Those patients should be carefully vetted and the operations offered only if there is an overwhelming probability of long-term success."

It's sad that they are only questioning these procedures on the basis of cost, money-wise because the cost to patients who suffer complications, lack of weight loss or worse, is so much greater.

The patient pictured above had an uncomplicated surgery and lost a lot of her weight but was regaining by the time the photo was taken in 2007.  She died of a heart attack in 2009.  The increasing number of early deaths on the long term from these procedures are never mentioned in the Medical Journals.  

One lady in her 50's who is very overweight, has stated that she has outlived 48 of her fat friends who had weight loss surgery!  Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware - yes even in medicine.