New evidence has shown that bariatric surgery can improve long term survival for patients from any age group, as it reduces the incidence of diabetes and other obesity-related conditions including heart problems.
A recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that obese people had a 53% lower risk of dying from any cause between five and 14 years after weight loss surgery. The study involved 2,500 obese patients and nearly 7,500 matched control patients who were receiving care in the US Department of Veterans Affairs health system. At the end of the 14 year study period, 263 deaths were recorded in the surgical group compared with 1,277 deaths in the controlled group.
Dr David Arterburn, who led the study, said: “We have tracked a large group of patients for a long enough time that we can clearly see a strong link between bariatric surgery and long-term survival…” The study also found that bariatric surgery has become safer over the years, with the risk of dying during or quite soon after surgery lower between 2006 – 2011 than it was between 2000 – 2005.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that obesity has reached epidemic proportions with a staggering 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight. The WHO has also warned about the link between obesity and other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
According to NHS Guidelines, weight loss surgery may be offered to patients whose obesity is life threatening and who have developed type II diabetes as a result of their obesity. While there is still a stigma attached to those who undergo weight loss surgery and a concern that surgery costs the NHS too much, studies suggest that the £8,000 cost of bariatric surgery is recouped within three years of surgery, whereas it costs the NHS £3,000 per patient per year to treat diabetes for life. As weight loss surgery can reduce overall costs to the NHS over the long term, the NHS is considering an increase in the number of people eligible for weight loss surgery.
Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s medical director, said: “Obesity and bariatric surgery are rapidly rising up the NHS agenda as a consequence of social and lifestyle choices. As in all branches of medicine, prevention is better than cure…”
Amy Milner, an associate in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team, says: “This recent study seems to reaffirm the view that weight loss surgery not only halves the risk of death for obese patients but can also save result in significant cost savings for the NHS. In recent years bariatric surgery has become much safer and more and more people are benefitting. It is also encouraging that bariatric surgery may become more widely available on the NHS.
“However, weight loss surgery should always be a last resort after other non-invasive methods of weight loss have been tried, as there can be life-changing risks to the patient if something goes wrong. Anyone considering weight loss surgery should be referred to a suitably qualified surgeon to discuss all the options available to ensure they have enough information about what the surgery entails and the potential risks.
“We are currently dealing with claims for gastric band surgery patients who have suffered unexpected problems ranging from a faulty band and incorrect insertion and function of the band to significant bleeding as a result of arterial damage during the procedure. All of these clients have suffered damaging long term problems which evidences the importance of patients being properly advised and the procedure being done by a suitably experienced practitioner.”