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Studies Examine Life After Weight-Loss Surgery
Date:10/15/2007

More than 6% of patients die within 5 years, but certain factors can boost outcomes

MONDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Coronary heart disease and suicide helped fuel the rise in the risk of death among patients after weight-loss surgery, a new study finds.

The research found that about one percent of people who had bariatric surgery in Pennsylvania between 1995 and 2004 died within a year of the surgery, and 6.4 percent died within five years.

Following 16,683 operations, 440 patients (2.6 percent) died, noted the University of Pittsburgh study. That's higher than the death rate for age- and sex-matched people in the general population.

The findings are published in the October issue of the journal Archives of Surgery, a themed issue on bariatric surgery.

The increased risk of death among bariatric surgery patients is "likely a function of the initial comorbidities related to substantial obesity and the likelihood that the patients remain obese even after the substantial weight loss and have remaining comorbidities," the study authors wrote.

Among their findings:

  • Less than one percent of deaths occurred within the first 30 days after surgery.
  • Death rates increased with age, especially among patients older than 65. The average age at time of surgery was 48 years.
  • Heart disease was the leading cause of death, killing 76 patients (19.2 percent). This is higher than the rate of heart disease death in the general population.
  • Of the 45 deaths from traumatic causes, 16 (4 percent of all deaths) were suicides, and 14 (3 percent) were drug overdoses not classified as suicide. In the general population, only two suicide deaths would have been expected among the same number of people.

"It is likely that this continued excess mortality after bariatric surgery could be reduced by better coordination of follow-up after the surgery, especially con
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