It is incredible the number of people who are turning to surgery to lose weight. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says there were 13,000 weight loss surgeries in 1998.
By 1992, that number had jumped to more than 72,000. And JAMA predicts by the year 2010, nearly 220,000 people will be signing up for weight loss surgery. The report says bariatric surgery is becoming the standard of care for morbidly obese individuals. But at what risk?
"Patients have not had the complete story about the risks and the benefits of these operations, says David Flum, M.D., with the University of Washington.
Dr. Flum, who headed the JAMA research, says, in general, stomach surgery for weight loss is more risky than previously thought. He also says his studies indicate that many patients who get the surgery are at high risk anyway from their obesity, but that doctors downplay the dangers of the operation.
JAMA refers to the records at a hospital in California which found that, within one year, 20% of patients were readmitted for complications. A second study examined the death rates among medicare patients. It found that one month after the surgery, 2% of the patients were dead and after a year, 4.6% -- almost one in 20 -- was dead.
Meanwhile, the American Obesity Association says after 5 years, the average excess weight loss from gastric bypass surgery ranges from about 50% to 75%.
Some believe a better option is lap band surgery which doesn't have to be permanent, because the band can be removed.