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Study Finds Weight-Loss Surgery Safer Than Thought
Date:7/29/2009

Death risk only 0.3 percent, chances of serious complications 4.3 percent,,,,

WEDNESDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- For those considering bariatric surgery to combat significant obesity, a new study suggests the risk of complications may be much lower than what has previously been reported.

The study, which looked at both gastric bypass surgery and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (lap-band surgery), found that the risk of death for these surgeries was 0.3 percent and the risk of a major adverse outcome was 4.3 percent.

"Bariatric surgery is safe," said study co-author Dr. Bruce Wolfe, a professor of surgery at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "Certain factors [such as a history of blood clots, obstructive sleep apnea or impaired functional status] increase the risk of complications, but you can discuss these risks as well as the potential benefits with your surgeon."

Results of the study appear in the July 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

As obesity rates have risen, so, too, has the popularity of bariatric surgery. Although it is a major surgical procedure, the benefits to the severely obese generally far outweigh the risks. In fact, the risk of death over time is about 35 percent lower for someone who's had the surgery compared to someone who remains extremely obese, according to background information in the study.

However, the surgery isn't for everyone. "If you're five or 10 pounds overweight, bariatric surgery isn't for you," said Dr. Malcolm K. Robinson, an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, and the author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.

"Basically, when I or my colleagues advise surgery, it's because the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks. In general, that's the case for someone with a BMI [body-mass index] of 35 and weight-related health problems like diabetes or hig
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