Results from a research study from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) indicate that bariatric surgery is able to decrease the risk of asthma exacerbations in asthmatics with obesity. The study was recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“We found that, in obese patients with asthma, the risk of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for asthma exacerbations decreased by half in the two years after bariatric surgery,” said Kohei Hasegawa, MD, MPH, MGH Department of Emergency Medicine, the lead author of the study in a recent news release. “Although previous studies of non-surgical weight loss interventions failed to show consistent results regarding asthma risks, our result strongly suggests that the kind of significant weight loss that often results from bariatric surgery can reduce adverse asthma events.”
Evidence from this new study shows that obesity is associated with asthma and also associated with increased risk for exacerbations. Specifically the researchers aimed to understand if bariatric surgery, an effective treatment for patients with obesity, could affect the risk of asthma and exacerbations. Using Florida, California and Nebraska health databases, the researchers identified 2,261 patients with both obesity and asthma that underwent bariatric surgery during 2007-2009.
Results revealed that for the two years preceding the surgery, 22% of patients had at least one visit to an emergency department (ED) or a hospitalization. In the two years following surgery 11% had an ED visit or hospital admission per year. Comparing the results with hospitalization alone results revealed a reduction from about 7% to 3% each year. Non-bariatric procedures had no effect on the risk of asthma exacerbations.
The mechanism by which weight loss reduces asthma-associated risks remains unclear, however research studies have found associations between obesity and a higher prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease, increased inflammation and airway physical changes.
“The databases we had access to did not include the actual amount of weight lost by these patients, but it is well documented that bariatric surgery results in substantial weight loss, averaging around 35 percent of presurgical weight,” he said in the news release. “While we can’t currently say how much weight loss would be needed to reduce asthma risks, previous studies of non-surgical interventions indicate that modest weight loss is not enough.”
“Bariatric surgery is a costly procedure that carries its own risks, factors that may offset the benefits regarding the risk of asthma exacerbation for some patients,” Hasegawa added in the news release. “To decrease asthma-related adverse events in the millions of obese individuals with asthma, we probably will need to develop safe, effective non-surgical approaches to achieve major weight loss.”