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18 January 2007
Obesity Surgeries Skyrocket

In the six years from 1998 to 2004 obesity surgeries for patients between 55 and 64 increased a massive 2,000 percent, says a new report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The report also found a 726 percent increase in surgeries among patients in the 18 to 54 age group.

The procedures, known collectively as bariatric surgery, are usually the last resort for obese persons who have tried and failed to lose excess weight by diet, exercise, and other means. The procedures include gastric bypass operations, vertical-banded gastroplasty, and gastric banding (lapbanding). Usually, doctors will recommend bariatric surgery for patients who have a BMI of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 or more who also have obesity-related medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea.

AHRQ Director, Carolyn M. Clancy, said the medical profession needed to be ready for further increases in bariatric procedures. "This report shows that more Americans are turning to obesity surgery and that an increasing number of younger people are undergoing these procedures," she explained. "As the rate of obesity continues to climb, the health care system needs to be prepared for continued escalation in the rate of this surgery and its potential complications."

Key figures from the report include:

  • Patients aged between 18 and 54 account for the highest number of surgeries: 103,097 bariatric surgeries, or 85 percent of the total.
  • Women have bariatric surgery more often than men, accounting for 82 percent of the total.
  • Gastric bypass surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach, accounted for 94 percent of bariatric procedures.
  • The average hospital cost for a bariatric surgery patient stay, excluding physician fees, was $10,395 in 2004 as compared with $10,970 in 1998 (adjusted for inflation).

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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