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Weight-Loss Surgery May Not Cut Medical Costs: Study
Date:7/17/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Although patients do indeed lose weight after bariatric surgery, health-care costs remain about the same as they were before the procedure, according to a new study.

Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach, which results in significant weight loss. Most patients in the new study had undergone a procedure called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Previous studies had shown that many obese people who have this procedure improve their health and reduce the cost of their care. In this group of patients, however, costs did not go down, the researchers said.

"These three-year findings suggest that the return on investment for bariatric surgery isn't seen," said lead researcher Matthew Maciejewski, from the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the Durham VA Medical Center, in North Carolina.

"It is possible, however, that if we could follow these [patients] for another three to five years, cost reduction may be seen," he said.

Bariatric surgery improved these patients' health in the short term, but without further weight loss or other lifestyle modifications, their risk remains high, he added.

Maciejewski said these patients, like most patents who have weight-loss surgery, gain much of the weight back, which may be why costs remain the same as before surgery.

The report was published in the July issue of the journal Archives of Surgery.

For the study, Maciejewski's team looked at health-care spending in nearly 850 U.S. military veterans who had weight-loss surgery, comparing them to a similar number of veterans who didn't. The researchers analyzed expenditures for the three years before and after surgery.

The researchers found that in the years before surgery, hospital inpatient and outpatient costs for people who had bariatric surgery were about $600 lower than for those who didn't
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