Weight Loss Surgery Soars in U.S.

More than 9 Times as Many Went Under Knife to Lose Weight in 2004 vs. 1998

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
on Thursday, January 11, 2007


Jan. 11, 2007 -- Weight loss surgery is soaring in the U.S., especially among baby boomers and women, a government report shows.

Weight loss, or bariatric, surgery is for morbidly obese people and those who are obese with serious medical conditions related to their weight. Perhaps the best known type of this surgery is gastric bypass surgery.

The new report shows bariatric surgery was nine times more common in 2004 than in 1998 in the U.S.

In 1998, 13,386 bariatric surgeries were performed on people of all ages. That figure rose to 121,055 in 2004.

Most of those operations were gastric bypass surgeries, according to the report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Boomers Lead Trend

The fastest growth in bariatric surgery was among people aged 55-64, but younger adults and teens also became more likely to opt for it.

"This report shows that more Americans are turning to obesity surgery and that an increasing number of younger people are undergoing these procedures," says AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy in an AHRQ news release.

"As the rate of obesity continues to climb, the health care system needs to be prepared for continued escalation in the rate of this surgery and its potential complications," Clancy says.

Bariatric surgery was 20 times more common among people aged 55-64 in 2004 than six years earlier (772 surgeries in 1998; about 15,800 in 2004).

People 45-54 had more than a tenfold increase in bariatric surgeries, rising from 3,320 in 1998 to about 35,900 in 2004.

Younger Adults Getting Weight Loss Surgery

Meanwhile, weight loss surgery grew sixfold in adults 18-44 during the years studied.

In 2004, more than 36,700 of those 35-44 got bariatric surgery, as did more than 30,400 adults 18 to 34.

Teens and older adults are also being caught up in the trend.

In 1998, there were too few bariatric surgery patients in these two age groups to count, says the AHRQ.

In 2004, 349 teens aged 12-17 and more than 1,400 adults 65 and older got bariatric surgery.

Men, Women Getting Weight Loss Surgery

Bariatric surgery increased for both sexes but was more common among women. Women accounted for about eight in 10 bariatric surgery patients in 2004, the study shows.

The number of bariatric surgeries performed on men rose more than eight times higher during the years studied, from 2,527 in 1998 to nearly 21,000 in 2004.

Bariatric surgeries performed on women increased more than nine times, from nearly 10,860 in 1998 to about 99,300 in 2004.

Bariatric surgery can have complications, but the report shows a drop in the hospital inpatient death rate.

In 2004, 230 patients died in hospital stays in which bariatric surgery was performed, down nearly 80% from 1998, according to the report.

If you're considering weight loss surgery, ask your doctor about the risks, benefits, and a long-term healthy lifestyle plan to keep the pounds off.

SOURCES: Zhao, Y. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Statistical Brief #23, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, January 2007.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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