Best Hospitals Have Lowest Chance of Bariatric Surgery Complications

A study released by HealthGrades identified 88 hospitals as the nations "best" performers (five-star rated), with mortality rates, complication rates and patient lengths of stay that are dramatically lower than other poorly rated hospitals. The independent healthcare ratings organization rated the quality of bariatric surgery in hospitals across 19 states.

Similar to findings published in other studies, higher volumes with more than 375 cases over 3 years, have a 32 percent lower risk of patient complications than lower volume programs, those with less than 75 cases over three years. The study found a large variation in the quality and outcomes of many U.S. bariatric surgery programs.

The findings in the study incluced:

  • The bariatric surgery patients treated at five-star hospitals have an average 67 percent lower chance of experiencing serious complications compared to patients who receive treatment at poorly rated hospitals.
  • Patients having surgery at top-rated hospitals, spent an average of half a day less in the hospital compared to patients having surgery in one-star hospitals.
  • More Center of Excellence bariatric surgery programs earned a five-star rating (29.5%) than non-COE programs (12.3%)
  • Laparoscopic bariatric surgery procedures account for 79% of all procedures, up from 54% last year.
  • Patients had a three times lower inhospital death rate associated with a bariatric surgery if they had it performed at a five star hospital versus a one-star hospital.


Co-author of the study and consultant for HealthGrades, Rick May, MD, adds, “Due to the wide gap in quality we see among bariatric surgery programs, we encourage patients to carefully evaluate the volume and inhospital outcomes of the bariatric program they are considering. Hospitals designated as five-star for bariatric surgery have best practices that drive their exceptional outcomes.”

Dr. Ron Hekier, a bariatric surgeon from Wadley Regional Med Center in Texas concurs with the findings: “This report from HealthGrades reviewed hospital data from 2005  2007 and not all hospitals were included in the study, so it is important for patients to seek timely information from their doctors. In the past few years there have been many more hospitals and doctors who have begun performing weight loss surgery.  Patients should carefully evaluate the surgical volume and experience of the hospitals and doctors they are considering in their evaluation of bariatric surgery programs."

However, Dr. Daniel Farkas, of Bronx-Lebanon hospital adds, “In bariatric surgery, where there are over a million potential patients in the country, there isn’t really enough space at the high volume centers to accommodate them.  And so it is my belief that we can’t limit these surgeries to these centers. There should probably be some limitations in place, say for example that we ensure that the surgeon has undergone specialized training. But more than that would be prohibitive.


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