Mortality Rate of Obesity Surgery May Be Higher Than Believed: Patient Survival 1 Year after Procedure Does Exceed That of Obese People Who Do Not Undergo Surgery

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- The chance of a patient dying as a result of bariatric surgery is actually about 1 in 50, not 1 in 200 or 1 in 500, as obese patients are often told, Dr. David R. Flum reported at the annual clinical congress of the American College of Surgeons.

The only good news in the first population-based analysis of the popular surgery is that people who survive a year appear to have a distinct survival advantage over obese people who do not undergo such surgery.

Dr. Flum and Dr. E. Patchen Dellinger of the University of Washington in Seattle used Washington state hospital discharge data to track outcomes in 3,328 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery for obesity/between 1987 and 2001, comparing them with obese patients who were hospitalized during that period but did not undergo gastric bypass. Patients with GI or oncologic diagnoses were excluded from the gastric bypass cohort.

Gastric bypass patients and other hospitalized obese patients were well matched by age and scores on the Charleston Comorbidity Index, a scale that attempts to account for overall health differences among cohorts. Patients were followed for a median of 4.4 years (maximum 15.5 years).

Slightly more than 1% of gastric bypass surgery patients died in the hospital.

"The more alarming thing is that you had 1.9% of patients dying in the first 30 days--numbers considerably higher than previously reported," Dr. Flum reported.

The rate of 30-day mortality after gastric bypass surgery was 3. …