Bariatric surgery safe, effective in older patients

Bariatric surgery can be safely performed in patients 60 and older while producing similar results to those seen in younger adults, according to findings presented Nov. 2 at ObesityWeek 2017 in Washington, D.C.

At almost three years of follow-up, 367 patients with an average body mass index (BMI) of 46.9 at baseline had lost more than 60 percent of their excess weight. Within one year, they had reduced their number of daily prescription medications by 3.1 on average—down from a starting level above eight.

The 90-day mortality rate was 0.3 percent and the major and minor complication rate was 5.6 percent and 16 percent, respectively, comparable to those in younger patients, according to researchers from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

"With the graying of America, more seniors will continue to turn to bariatric surgery to treat their obesity and related diseases including type 2 diabetes," said American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) secretary/treasurer Eric DeMaria, MD, who was not involved in the study. "This study provides further evidence that they can do so with confidence."

The study included 190 patients who had laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, 115 who had open gastric bypass and 32 who had sleeve gastrectomy. All of the procedures make the stomach smaller so patients feel satisfied with less food.

Patients are recommended to take daily supplements the rest of their lives to account for the loss of vitamins, iron and calcium.

Metabolic/bariatric surgery is most often used in patients with severe obesity, defined as a BMI of 40 or more or a BMI of 35 or more in conjunction with an obesity-related condition like diabetes. The ASMBS estimates 24 million Americans have severe obesity.