It’s no secret that bariatric surgery can result in significant amounts of excessive weight loss and can help many obesity-related diseases go into remission. While there are risks of complications, death rates seem much lower than previously believed, according to the Journal of American Medical Association Surgery medical journal.

The study’s goal was to update information about the safety and effectiveness of surgeries such as adjustable gastric banding or lap band, vertical banded gastroplasty, gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy (gastric sleeve).

Typically these types of weight loss surgeries are used on those who are moderately or severely obese with serious health issues related to their weight. The last update was made in 2009 on these surgeries. The head of the researcher is Su-Hsin Chang, an instructor with Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery at the Washington University School of Medpicine. He mentions that the team wanted to answer general questions regarding the risks and effectiveness of the surgical treatment of obesity as a whole and to discover which weight loss surgery procedure was the most successful.

About the Study

The study looked at 164 similar studies from 2003 to 2012, which evaluated nearly 161,756 patients. The average patient was 45 years old, and 80% were female. The average body mass index (BMI) before surgery was 46. Any BMI higher than 35 is considered obese. A quarter of these patients had diabetes, half had high blood pressure, and nearly 30% had high cholesterol. 7% had heart disease, and 25% had sleep apnea.

After surgery, the patients’ BMI dropped nearly 12 to 17 points within five years. Instances of sleep apnea, diabetes, and high blood pressure also improved in most patients (86-92% in diabetes and 75% of those with high blood pressure). Sleep apnea also disappeared in nearly 90% of patients.

Death rates with all of these patients were low at .08%. 10-17% of patients experienced some complications while some were relatively minor.

The study found that gastric bypass surgery was the most effective at long-term weight loss yet the procedure had the highest complications of all the procedures. The sleeve gastrectomy weight loss was almost as effective as gastric bypass coming in at a close 2nd place. The lap band wasn’t quite as useful in terms of effective weight loss and proven to have more complications than the sleeve or bypass.