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Health Team

Weight-loss surgery doesn't improve short-term survival rates

Posted June 13, 2011 4:55 p.m. EDT
Updated December 29, 2011 1:42 p.m. EST

— Bariatric surgery can help severely obese patients lose weight and improve diseases like diabetes and high blood pressue, but a new study by Durham researchers shows that it doesn't boost short-term survival rates.

Researchers at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Durham studied 850 veterans over a six-year period after they underwent bariatric surgery at 12 VA centers nationwide. The veterans were older men who were heavier and at higher risk for weight-related diseases than the average surgical patient.

Although the surgery helped the men lose weight and discontinue some medications, Matthew Maciejewski of the Durham VA Medical Center said the study showed their survival rate wasn't different than veterans who didn't have bariatric surgery.

"There may not be survival benefit, at least in the short to medium term, and this is important for patients and their providers to consider when they're weighing decisions about whether or not to have bariatric surgery," said Dr. Leila Kahwati of the Durham VA Medical Center.

The study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Previous studies show survival rates for older men didn't change until 10 years or more after surgery, and studies are ongoing to understand what happens to the patients over longer periods.

"It's really important for us to be able to understand the longer-term survival of these patients to see if a difference does emerge over time," Maciejewski said.