Bariatric surgery is a group of surgical weight loss procedures designed to help obese and morbidly obese people. For many people, excess weight is a health problem, and losing it a difficult task as obesity is an epidemic that affects two in every three adults in the US alone according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In an effort to combat these statistics, there are numerous medically supervised weight loss programs designed to help patients, including behavioral changes, replacement meals, pharmacotherapy, and surgery.

Bariatric surgery is usually the last recourse for patients who have previously attempted and failed to lose weight through other methods. This type of treatment encourages weight loss through the limitation of food intake, which is accomplished by the reduction of the stomach’s capacity and size, causing malabsorption of calories — an effective approach to weight loss in cases of severe or morbid obesity. Due to improvements and advancements in the procedures, it is now possible for surgeons to perform weight loss surgery using minimally invasive techniques.

Bariatric Surgery Incidence Statistics in the US

The study “The incidence of bariatric surgery has plateaued in the U.S.,” authored by Livingston E.H. is focused on the increase of bariatric surgery incidence in the country. The author concluded that the use of the procedure has increased to about 113,000 cases per year. In addition, open surgery has decreased to represent only 3% of the cases now, despite the fact that it costs on average $4,800 less than laparoscopic procedures. Laparoscopic gastric banding is conducted in 37% of the patients and complication rates have fallen from 10.5% in 1993 to 7.6% of all cases in 2006.

“Despite predictions of continued growth of bariatric surgery, it appears that the annual incidence for these operations has remained stable since 2003. Most operations are performed laparoscopically, but open gastric bypass is substantially less costly than laparoscopic operations. Despite its simplicity, laparoscopic gastric banding costs the same as gastric bypass. There is no cost savings associated with ambulatory bariatric surgery,” explained the author, who added that bariatric surgery costs the health economy at least $1.5 billion annually.

Statistics on the Economic Impact of Bariatric Surgery

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), weight loss surgery usually costs between $11,500 and $26,000. Despite being expensive procedures, there is the possibility of insurance coverage, since the benefits may outlie the costs and risks. On average, healthcare costs for patients suffering from morbid obesity are reduced by 29% within five years following bariatric surgery, which is related to a decrease or full elimination of comorbidities associated with obesity.

In addition, the ASMBS also states that research demonstrated that third-party payers will recover metabolic and bariatric surgery costs within two-to-four years following a patient’s procedure, which is correlates to the improvement in overall health. In the case of employers, productivity is also a way of increasing the refund, since surgical treatment of morbid obesity results in an individual worker productivity gain of $2,765 per year for U.S. employers, according to expert analysis.

Bariatric Surgery Efficacy and Safety Statistics

The “First Report from the American College of Surgeons — Bariatric Surgery Center Network: Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy has Morbidity and Effectiveness Positioned Between the Band and the Bypass” study compared efficacy and safety of three types of bariatric surgery. The analysis of Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy (LSG), Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band (LAGB), and Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (LRYGB) revealed that gastric band is the most safe procedure, while gastric bypass is the most effective.

“30-day complication rates, and reduction in weight and weight-related illnesses for up to one-year for the LSG seem to fall between the LAGB (which has relatively fewer short term complications, but less reduction in weight and weight-related diseases), and the LRYGB (which seems to have relatively more complications, and to be more effective),” concluded the study, with the researchers  adding that “mortality rate of the LSG (0.11% at 30 days, 0.21% at one year) is positioned between the LAGB (0.05% and 0.08%) and the LRYGB (0.14% and 0.34%).”

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