Weight loss surgery benefits continue long after procedure 

Weight loss surgery benefits continue long after procedure

Improvements in pain, physical function, and work productivity are likely to endure for at least seven years after bariatric weight loss surgery, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh.  

The study found that improvements continued in participants even after ageing over the course of the study. This information can help physicians and patients who undergo weight loss surgery to alleviate joint pain and improve their mobility.  

“Adults with severe obesity are much more likely to experience significant joint pain and limits to their physical abilities,” said Wendy King PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Pitt’s School of Public Health. “Obesity leads to an earlier need for knee and hip replacement. However, adults with severe obesity may be denied joint surgery until they lose weight. And, if physical limitations and pain interfere with job performance, losing weight could be necessary to maintain employment.”  

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.  

The new study will help doctors achieve better results

Between 2006 and 2009, King and her colleagues followed 1,491 adult participants who received either Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, the two most common types of weight loss surgery. At the time of the weight loss surgery, the median age of the participants was 47, and 80% were female. 

The participants were enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-funded Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 (LABS-2), a cohort of US patients undergoing weight loss surgery.  

This research expands on previous research from King that found that in the three years immediately following bariatric weight loss surgery, 50%-70% of participants reported improvements in pain levels, physical function and walking speed.  

“At the time, that research provided the largest and longest-running evaluation of changes in pain and physical function after modern-day bariatric procedures,” King said. “Our new study more than doubles that timespan, giving patients and doctors a better understanding of the likelihood that bariatric weight loss surgery will yield lasting results.”  

Weight loss surgery can improve employability 

In their most recent study, the researchers found at seven years post-surgery, 43% of participants had reported improvements in pain, 64% reported improvements in physical function and 50% reported improvements in walking speed. These results were all down by 7%-11% from the three-year assessment.  

65% of participants who had symptoms of osteoarthrosis before having weight loss surgery reported improvements in hip pain, while 72% reported improvements in knee function, seven years post-surgery. These figures were 77% down from the three-year stage. 

King explained that small to moderate declines in pain and physical function were to be expected given that patients had also aged over the course of the study.  “On average, participants experienced durable improvements in walking speed, fitness and almost all metrics of pain,” King said.   

Participants also reported that pain and health status interfered less with their ability to work after the weight loss surgery. Only 43% of participants reporting impaired work due to health seven years after weight loss surgery, this was down 63% from pre-surgery levels.  

“Combined, our study provides great news about the lasting effects of bariatric surgery,” King said. “But clinicians should look at patients as individuals and consider their complete health history, goals and motivations for weight loss when providing presurgical counselling on potential results.”  

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