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Bariatric Surgery Rates Soaring In England

August 27, 2010

The use of surgery to combat obesity has soared in England over the past decade, according to a new study published online at the British Medical Journal (BMJ) website on Friday.

In fact, the frequency of bariatric surgery–a set of procedures that reduces the size of the stomach by removing part of it, sealing a portion off with a gastric band, or re-routing the small intestines to a stomach pouch–increased exponentially, experts from St. Mary’s Hospital and Imperial College in London discovered.

In 2000, just 238 weight-loss surgeries were performed by doctors at National Health Service (NHS) hospitals, according to a BMJ press release dated August 26. However, by 2007, the number of bariatric procedures that took place shot up to 2,543–a tenfold increase.

“These figures just show how bad things have got with the obesity epidemic,” Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum told French news agency AFP on Friday. “We have alternative ways of losing weight but when people realize this is a possibility, they could go for it”¦ A lot of doctors are also starting to skirt around the rules and not insist on months of lifestyle change and pharmaceutical treatment–instead they are going straight for surgery.”

“The number of morbidly obese patients in the UK is increasing rapidly and we need to continue to put even more resources into what is proven to be a successful and cost-effective method of treatment,” added bariatric surgeon Peter Sedman, a spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). “The burden on the NHS in years to come in obesity-related illness will otherwise be overwhelming.”

The NHS only recommends bariatric surgery for those considered to be morbidly obese–in other words, men and women with a body mass index of at least 40. In addition, they suggest that an operation should be a last resort, when dieting, exercise, and other traditional methods have failed.

The study also discovered that patients who underwent gastric banding procedures had lower morality and readmission rates than those who were selected for gastric bypass surgery. Furthermore, their average length of stay was also shorter. The researchers used information obtained from the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) database from April 2000 through March 2008 in their report.

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