Study finds weight loss surgery much riskier for men than women

weight loss surgery

A new study from Austria finds that men, who undergo weight loss surgery, are five times more likely to die within 30 days postoperative than women. Even 30 days after the procedure, a man’s odds of mortality are almost three times higher than women.

Researchers with the study reviewed 20,000 medical claims data from Austrian state insurance of patient who had bariatric surgery between January 2010 and December 2018. Even though the percentage of weight loss surgery patients who died was small (less than 2%), the death rates were nearly three times higher for men than women (0.64% versus 0.24%). The 30-day window of time after a weight loss surgery, was the riskiest for men at 25 deaths or 0.5% compared to women of 12 deaths or 0.1%.

What is bariatric surgery and why is it risky?

Any surgery can be risky but bariatric surgery does have its challenges. Bariatric surgery is a type of weight loss surgery that is done when diet and exercise haven’t worked or when a person has serious, life-threatening health problems because of their weight. These problems may include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnea

Bariatric surgery is a major procedure that poses serious risks and side effects. Anyone undergoing this type of weight loss surgery must clearly understand and be willing to make permanent healthy lifestyle changes to their diet and exercise regimen for ensuring long-term success. All procedures will limit how much you can eat and some also work by reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients increasing risk for malnourishment. There are several different types of bariatric surgery – here are some examples:

Not just anyone can get bariatric surgery as there are certain criteria for those who qualify for it:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher with or without co-morbidities
  • BMI of 35 to 39.9 and have at least two serious weight-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or high blood pressure.
  • Undergo an extensive screening process to qualify.
  • Willing to make permanent lifestyle changes

Why do men have a higher death rate from weight loss surgery?

An interesting finding from this study was that when compared to women, men who opt for weight loss surgery tend to be older and have more advanced health problems, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The more co-morbidities a person has before the surgery, the greater chance of complications afterward.  Women, who undergo weight loss surgery, tend to have this procedure earlier in life before health issues become more complicated.

The most common conditions found in those who died within 30 days post-op, were men with cardiovascular disease and psychiatric disorders.

The main takeaway is that bariatric surgery can still be a safe and effective surgery, with only a small percentage of patients who die from it. However, anyone considering bariatric surgery should be proactive about the timing of the surgery and not to wait until they are older to have it done.

Study finds weight loss surgery much riskier for men than women
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi