Intermountain Health study looks at long-term effects of weight loss surgery

Published last month in the medical journal obesity, a new Intermountain Health study followed patients for 40 years after bariatric surgery. The study used data from the Utah Population Database (UPDB), said study author Dr. Nathan Richards, associate medical director of general surgery at Intermountain Health.

“So when we want to track outcomes and … ask questions like, ‘Is the surgery working and/or how are people doing over time?' And then we can go to those databases and get answers,” Richards said. Dr. said.

The study found that bariatric surgery patients had a 16 percent lower overall mortality in both men and women compared to matched patients who did not undergo surgery. Broken down by cause, there was a 29 percent reduction in cardiovascular-related deaths, a 43 percent reduction in cancer-related deaths, and a 72 percent reduction in diabetes-related deaths.

“There's been a dramatic reduction in research around heart disease, diabetes and … cancer — that's to be expected. I mean, it's kind of cool to see. And the extent of the reduction,” Dr. Richards said.

An unexpected finding was that younger patients, aged 18 to 34, were significantly more likely to die by suicide than those who did not undergo surgery, Dr. Richards said.

“And I think it speaks to what's going on … outside of the physiology, and the emotional expectation of ‘hey, I just went through this, I'm in pain'. It was harder than I thought,  … …I didn't lose weight as quickly as I'd like,” Dr. Richards said.

Dr. Richards said he hopes the study will help providers make the best decisions for their patients.

“How can we do better? How can we do a better job of preparing people before surgery and helping people actually ensure success after surgery from a mental health standpoint?” he asked.

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