Study Finds Risks of Bariatric Surgery Increase with Patient’s Age

A study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the March issue of Archives of Surgery has found that the risk of complications associated with bariatric (obesity) surgery increase with the age of the patient.

The team found that every extra year of age carried an additional 6% increased risk for complications. This included the more serious complication such as leaking, dehiscence, or hemorrhage.

While no definitive age was found to mark the beginning of any dramatic increase in risk, the researchers suggest that any patient who is 60 or older should be told about the heightened risk of complications associated with age.

The study also found the biliopancreatic diversion with the duodenal switch procedure was associated with about twice the risk of complications compared with the gastric bypass procedure.

The study retrospectively reviewed the records of 452 patients. Of those, 372 were women and 80 were men. Their average age was 44. All of the subjects had their surgeries between 2000 and 2003. The average follow-up was more than 400 days.

Overall, the major complication rate was 10% and the minor complication rate 13%. Factors such as body-mass-index, gender, diabetes, laparoscopic versus open approach, and surgeon experience did not significantly affect complication risk.

Although these particular researchers have not set any specific age limit as an absolute contraindication to bariatric surgery, they do “approach older patients with caution,” and believe that their findings as well as other recent data suggest the benefits of such procedures “with respect to longevity may wane in older patients.”

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