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For Very Obese, Gastric Bypass May Extend Life
Date:1/18/2010

Decision-making depends on comparing benefits vs. risks, researchers say

MONDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Gastric bypass surgery could have life-extending benefits for most of the five percent of Americans who are very obese, a new study suggests.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, concluded that the benefits of this form of weight-loss surgery far outweigh the risks for most people who are morbidly obese, which is defined as having a body mass index of 40 or higher.

But individual decisions on the surgery rely on factors such as age, and a special program to help physicians and obese people balance the benefits and risks of weight-loss surgery is on the way, the researchers said.

"In the future, we plan on having a Web-based decision support tool," said Dr. Daniel P. Schauer, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center. "Hopefully, it will be available some time in the next year. It is in the development and testing phase."

The program is based on a study reported by Schauer and his colleagues in the January issue of Archives of Surgery. They examined data on more than 23,000 people who underwent bariatric surgery. The study compared that data to the immediate risk of death from the procedure and the years of life expectancy added by having the surgery.

Obesity is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. An increasing number of Americans who cannot control their weight by diet or behavioral changes have turned to bariatric surgery. Gastric bypass is one of several forms of bariatric surgery, which work by either preventing food from entering the stomach or diverting it past the stomach, thereby reducing food intake and absorption.

Current data indicate that a 42-year-old woman with a BMI of 45 would gain three years of life expectancy through gastric bypass,
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