Bariatric Surgery Eases Pain, Disability in 50-70% of Patients in 3-Year Study

Bariatric Surgery Eases Pain, Disability in 50-70% of Patients in 3-Year Study

A  research study focusing on bariatric surgery outcomes highlights patient-related characteristics that might help predict an obese patient’s likelihood of experiencing  improvements in joint pain relief and overall mobility following such surgery. The study, funded by National Institutes of Health, was presented at 2015 ObesityWeek, the annual international meeting of American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society.

Lead author Dr. Wendy King, at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and colleagues followed 2,221 patients from 10 U.S. hospitals who had undergone weight loss surgery and then participated in the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 over the course of three years. During this long-term observation, researchers concluded that the majority of patients, from 50% to 70%, experienced clinical improvements regarding body pain — namely decreased joint pain and improvements in walking ability and speed. About 75% of patients with complaints of osteoarthritis symptoms, such as knee and hip pain and poor body function, reported significant improvements. Likewise, more than 50% of obese patients with preoperative mobility dysfunction reported improvement post-surgery.

Despite the general positive results obtained in the post-surgery assessment, however, some patients continued to experience significant pain and disability.

In light of this, researchers set out to identify markers to help clinicians set realistic outcomes and develop further intervention strategies for specific at-risk patients before surgery. A number of personal and social characteristics emerged as a common thread aamong less successful post-surgery cases. These characteristics include older age, lower income, and depressive condition. Clinical disorders that existed before surgery, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, were also found to be relevant in post-surgery outcome. Successful weight loss and a reduction in depressive symptoms were found to greatly contribute to better mobility and pain reduction.

Co-author Dr. Anita Courcoulas, MD and chief of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery in Pitt’s School of Medicine, concluded in a press release: “Functional status is an extremely important aspect of health that has not been as well-studied as other conditions that change following bariatric surgery and this study sheds light on specific factors that may affect improvements in individuals with joint pain who undergo these procedures.”

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