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Weight-Loss Costs: A critical look at gastric surgery

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9:19pm, October 18, 2005

Obese people who opt for weight-loss surgery incur increased odds of subsequent hospitalization and, in some groups, a substantial risk of death, say researchers who have investigated this burgeoning treatment. Even so, some of the scientists say, those risks may be justified.

Gastric-bypass surgery—which detours food around most of the stomach—and other weight-loss, or bariatric, operations usually mitigate numerous conditions, including diabetes, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. Nationwide, surgery is an option for about 10 million severely obese people, says David R. Flum of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Five times as many women as men choose a weight-loss operation, usually after dieting and exercise fail, according to an analysis of hospital records by Heena P. Santry of the University of Chicago and her colleagues. They found that the surgical patients are primarily people from wealthy communities and who have private insurance.

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