Expert Commentary: Ron Hekier, M.D. 9/24/2009

A recent report revealed some important information for people about to undergo weight loss surgery. A study released by HealthGrades showed that certain hospitals had dramatically lower death rates, complications rates, and lengths of stay in the hospital after bariatric surgery when compared to other hospitals. Those hospitals with the best results were rated as 5-star rated hospitals for bariatric surgery.

HealthGrades rated the quality of bariatric surgery among hospitals in 19 different states.  Other studies have found similar results and have also reported that hospitals that have higher volume and perform more cases per year often have a lower risk of complications than other hospitals that have lower volume.  In the report released by HealthGrades, those hospitals that that had a high volume of bariatric surgery performed had the following benefits when compared to lower volume programs
      
5-star rated hospitals had a 67% lower change of experiencing serious complications after weight loss surgery when compared with a 1-star rated program while death rates after bariatric surgery are generally low, the death rate at a 1-star hospital is about three times higher than that of a 5-star hospital
      
5-star rated hospitals were more likely to be certified a Center of Excellence for bariatric surgery by other certifying bodies Increasing numbers of Americans are battling with severe obesity and health complications that can occur or be made worse due to their overweight status.  As a result, many are turning to bariatric surgery as a possible solution for their weight issues and as an option to improve associated health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, joint problems, and sleep apnea. 

It is important for patients to make an informed and educated decision about bariatric
surgery.  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.

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