Obesity is an epidemic in our country, with data showing that approximately one in three Americans is obese.
Unfortunately, obesity is a difficult condition to treat and contributes to a host of medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and joint pain.
When diet and exercise fail, an increasingly popular treatment is gastric bypass surgery. In the surgery, doctors reduce the size of the stomach to limit the intake and absorption of calories.
Food literally “bypasses” portions of the normal gastrointestinal tract, resulting in long-term weight loss and improvement in comorbid conditions.
The surgery can be performed with a laparoscopic – minimally invasive – approach or with a traditional open approach. In the first national study of its kind, researchers from Stanford published a paper in the Archives of Surgery demonstrating that laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery has better outcomes.
Dr. John Morton, the senior author and an associate professor of surgery at Stanford, examined more than 160,000 gastric bypass surgeries in a large national database of hospital admissions between 2004 and 2007.
The results show that patients who received a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery versus an open procedure had lower rates of mortality, complications, a shorter length of stay, and lower total charges during their time in the hospital. The better outcomes persisted after adjusting for baseline differences such as age, income and other medical conditions.
The new study demonstrates that when considering gastric bypass surgery, patients should consult with physicians who can perform the procedure laparoscopically.
Patients should also find hospitals that perform a high volume of weight-loss surgeries (more than 125 per year), as prior studies have shown that these hospitals have better outcomes than low-volume centers.
Weight-loss surgery should not be taken lightly and is by no means an easy way to lose weight. Even after the surgery, patients will need major changes to their diet and lifestyle.
However, patients with a body mass index greater than 35 should talk with their doctor about surgical options that can fight obesity and improve their long term health.