About one in six patients reported high-risk drinking before weight loss surgery. At one year after surgery two thirds of gastric bypass patients and nearly half of gastric banding patients reported ceasing high-risk drinking. And at year two "half of gastric bypass and more than half of gastric banding patients reported this improvement," write the authors.
"It's possible that previous studies may have missed this positive effect because post-surgery alcohol use wasn't compared against baseline consumption," says Wee.
While this decrease in high-risk drinking is important, the study also found that seven percent of weight loss surgery patients who did not report high-risk drinking at baseline reported new high-risk drinking at year one and two years post-surgery. These findings were similar between gastric bypass and gastric banding patients.
Wee thinks understanding the complete picture can better prepare clinicians to counsel their patients who are considering weight loss surgery and follow up with them after surgery.
"Often, high-risk drinkers are steered away from weight loss surgery. Knowing that a significant percentage of these patients may actually cease high-risk drinking after weight loss surgery may help us recommend more patients for surgery," says Wee.
"We routinely screen for alcohol misuse as part of routine pre- and post-operative care, with a heavy emphasis on patients who are known to be at risk," says co-author Dan Jones, MD, Director of BIDMC's Bariatric Surgery Center. "This study tells us that we can do a better job of screening for and supporting patients who are newly at risk as opposed to only focusing on those who may have had a problem before surgery."
Wee says more research is necessary to understand why weight loss surgery seems to help some patients improve alcohol misuse, while it increases misuse in others. "We also need t
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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center