Costs were almost $4,400 higher in the first six months after surgery, but then dropped to about the same level as before the procedure, the researchers found.
These findings, however, may only apply to this particular group of patients, who were mostly male, older and sicker than other patients who have weight-loss surgery, the researchers noted. In other groups, the procedure may reduce health-care spending.
Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of bariatric surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said patients should not be looking for a return on investment from any medical procedure.
"We do this medical procedure to make people improve medically -- get rid of their diabetes, their sleep apnea -- and feel better about themselves and let them have an improved quality of life," he said.
Roslin said the notion of cost reduction was something that "people created to try to get coverage for bariatric surgery. I don't believe, in a system like ours, there will ever be a return on investment for any medical procedure."
For more about weight-loss surgery, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Matthew Maciejewski, Ph.D., Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; Mitchell Roslin, M.D., chief of bariatric surgery, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; July 2012 Archives of Surgery
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