Heart deaths, suicides up after weightloss surgery

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Among people who have undergone so-called bariatric surgery for obesity, death rates are higher than seen among other people of the same age, new research shows. In particular, deaths due to suicide and coronary heart disease are higher than might be expected normally.

The study looked at data for all Pennsylvania residents who underwent a bariatric operation such as stomach stapling or gastric bypass between 1995 and 2004. Deaths in these patients were compared with those seen in the general population.

A total of 440 deaths were noted after 16,683 weightloss procedures during the study period, Dr. Lewis H. Kuller, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues report.

Male gender and advancing age were both associated with increased death rates, according to the team’s report in the Archives of Surgery.

For all age groups, the death rate was much higher in bariatric surgery patients than in the general population.

The difference was particularly pronounced for patients between 25 and 34 years of age. In this group, the death rates for male and female patients were 13.8 and 5.0 per 1000 persons per year, respectively, compared with rates of 1.3 and 0.6 per 1000 persons per year in the general population.

The most common cause of death was coronary heart disease, the report indicates. In addition, there were 16 suicides, 10 of them women. Based on data from the general population, the authors estimate that only three suicide deaths would have been expected in this number of people.

Kuller’s group says the excess deaths after bariatric surgery could be reduced by better control of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and smoking, “as well as efforts to prevent weight regain by diet and exercise, and psychological support to treat depression and prevent suicide.”

SOURCE: Archives of Surgery, October 2007.