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Study Finds Low Rate of Short-Term Complications in Obesity Surgery

Very high BMI, history of sleep apnea or DVT can increase the risks.

Published: August 20, 2009

The rates of short-term complications and death following bariatric surgery to treat obesity are relatively low, although the risks of post-op adverse events are greater for patients with a history of sleep apnea, deep vein thrombosis or a very high body mass index, according to the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery.

The LABS study, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined 30-day outcomes in 4, 776 first-time bariatric surgery patients between 2005 and 2007. Overall, 4.1% of patients had at least 1 major adverse outcome (death, blood clots, repeat surgeries or prolonged hospital stays) within 30 days of surgery; 0.3% died.

The type of procedures (open vs. laparoscopic) did not have a significant impact on the rate of short-term post-op complications, nor did the patient’s age, sex, race or ethnicity. However, patients with a history of DVT or pulmonary embolus, obstructive sleep apnea or "impaired functional status" were at a heightened risk, LABS researchers found. A very high BMI also put patients at greater risk of complications; for example, patients with a BMI of 75 were 61% more likely to have an adverse outcome than those with a BMI of 53.

"This study's results can help patients and physicians make informed decisions about potential risks and benefits of bariatric surgery," says study co-author Susan Z. Yanovski, MD, co-director of NIDDK's Office of Obesity Research.

Irene Tsikitas


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