Bariatric surgery increases life expectancy of obese patients
GOTHENBURG, Sweden: On average, patients who have undergone bariatric surgery live longer than those given conventional treatments, a recent study has shown. Compared with the general population, however, both groups’ excess mortality is high. The study results are based on the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study, which started in 1987 and is led by Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.
It has been known for some time that bariatric surgery brings about lasting weight loss and lowered risks of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer, leading to lower mortality. On the other hand, to what extent this translates to extension of life expectancy after bariatric surgery has been unknown.
The study comprised data on 2,007 adult patients who had undergone bariatric surgery and a control group of 2,040 given conventional (non-surgical) treatment for obesity. In addition, a representative reference group of 1,135 people from the general population was included.
Among those who underwent surgery, estimated average life expectancy was three years longer than in patients treated with non-surgical obesity care, but 5.5 years shorter than in the general population.
“Now, for the first time, we’ve got a measure of how much bariatric surgery prolongs life expectancy for the average patient. But it’s important to point out that it’s a matter of averages. Not all patients are the same, so you can’t draw the conclusion that everyone who gets the operation done lives three years longer,” said lead-author Dr Lena Carlsson Ekander, professor of clinical metabolic research at Sahlgrenska Academy. She has been responsible for the SOS study since 2005.
Minority has surgery
Despite the beneficial effects of bariatric surgery—the reduced risk of worsening health and premature death—still only a minority of the patients eligible for surgery actually undergo an operation. The researchers emphasised the importance of patients getting appropriate information to make an informed choice when considering obesity treatment.
“Obesity has long been known to reduce average life expectancy by some five to ten years. Our study shows that bariatric surgery prolongs it by three years. But even after surgery, patients still have a shorter life expectancy than the general population. That’s why it’s very important for bariatric patients to be offered adequate postoperative monitoring and follow-up,” Carlsson Ekander concluded.
The study, titled “Life Expectancy after Bariatric Surgery in the Swedish Obese Subjects Study”, was published online on 15 October 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine.