Growing demand for bariatric surgery challenges patients, system

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Growing demand for bariatric surgery challenges patients, system

May 22, 2014—The number of bariatric surgeries performed in Canadian hospitals has nearly quadrupled since 2006–2007, according to a new study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). The study takes a closer look at the current state of bariatric surgery in Canada, including types of surgeries, costs and patient outcomes.

About 6,000 bariatric surgeries were performed in 2012–2013, up from 1,600 procedures in 2006–2007. The rise is due largely to increased funding, surgical capacity and treatment programs in some provinces, most notably Ontario. Annual hospital costs for the surgeries topped $48 million, not including physician payment.

“1 in 5 Canadian adults has obesity—and with those rates continuing to grow, so too will the need to understand the implications for the health care system. Bariatric surgery can be effective to help some patients reach a healthy weight. However, it is not without risks. Supervised weight-management programs and lifestyle changes such as healthy diet and increased physical activity can be effective too.”

– Kathleen Morris, director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues at CIHI

Who’s getting the surgery and what are the outcomes?

The report shows that 80% of Canadians who get bariatric surgery are female, with the typical patient being a woman in her 40s with obesity and other related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep disorders.

Patient safety is improving, with complication and readmission rates declining over the past few years. 5% of patients—down from 8%—experienced complications during their hospitalization. 6% of patients, down from 9%, were readmitted to hospital within 30 days—a readmission rate similar to that for all surgical patients in Canada.

Research shows that patients who undergo the surgery often lose a significant amount of weight and see improvements in conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

“Bariatric surgery—when performed on appropriate patients by skilled surgeons, and when supported by a robust and well-designed educational component that helps support a healthy post-surgical lifestyle—increases life expectancy, decreases or cures many medical comorbidities and improves many other aspects of quality of life.”

– Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor in the University of Ottawa’s Department of Medicine