Obesity Surgery


With the unbelievable rise in obesity rates here in america comes what many would consider an expected consequence: the number of americans having weight-loss surgery more than quadrupled between 1998 and 2002.


Is this a good or a bad thing?

 “I actually just got weighed today it was 144. If you ask 30 year old sara conklin, that is amazing given where she was almost exactly one year ago.  “264 pounds.”


The miracle of weight loss surgery.


It was an easy decision for sara to get it done.  “I said you know what my insurance company would cover it so I decided to go and do it.”


And apparently, that's what many people are saying, and doing.


According to a new study, the number of individuals having weight loss surgery rose from just more than 13,000 to more than 71,000 over a four year period.


The reason, in part, is because of a 900 percent rise in operations on young seniors--patients between the ages of 55 and 64.


Dr. Ashutoch Kaul, a bariatric surgeon, says, “What has happened is a lot of patients have seen their friends or relatives who have had the surgery they’ve seen the benefits that the patients have had from the surgery.  In our practice about 80 to 90 percent of patients we see are from friends and relatives of patients we have already done.”


But the rise in surgeries is an issue: the price tag is not a small one.  Hospital costs for treating these patients increased from $157 million a year to $948 million a year.


With an increase in advertising, media coverage, and improvements in safety—death rates fell 64 percent during the four years of the study, giving even more reason to get the surgery done.


Another issue: the number of seniors medically eligible for bariatric surgery keeps going up.  “Recently there are a lot of studies that have come up that have shown excellent results in people who are over 60 years,” says Dr. Kaul.


Good for them, but it could be a big problem for Medicare.  Currently, less than one percent of people medically eligible get the operation.  The authors estimate that future demand for weight-loss surgery could rise even more sharply.


Interestingly, the rise in the cost of surgeries outpaced inflation…going up 13 percent, or around 1500 dollars to an average of just more than 13,000 dollars per operation.


There is a bit of good news to all of this. Patients who get weight loss surgery lose 60 to 70 percent of their excess weight.  As a result, three out of of every four who have diabetes saw their diabetes completely eliminated.


And the other piece of good news: in addition to the medical benefits is the psychological payoff.


"You become the person you feel like you were on the inside and you can let that person out and you can shine and be more confident and not be afraid of who you are," says Sara.


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