Bariatric Surgery Shown to Increase Life Expectancy by 3 Years Compared to Usual Care

New research from Sweden shows patients who have received bariatric surgery live 3 years longer, on average, than those given conventional treatment for their obesity.

Patients who have undergone bariatric surgery live 3 years longer, on average, than those given conventional treatment for their obesity, according to new research from Sweden published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“Now, for the first time, we’ve got a measure of how much bariatric surgery prolongs life expectancy for the average patient,” said lead author Lena Carlsson Ekander, MD, PhD, professor of Clinical Metabolic Research, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in a university press release. “But it’s important to point out that it’s a matter of averages. Not all patients are the same, so you can’t draw the conclusion that everyone who gets the operation done lives three years longer.”

Using subjects from the Swedish Obese Subjects study—which started in 1987 and has been led by Ekander since 2005—researchers analyzed 2007 adult patients who had undergone bariatric surgery and a control group of 2040 adults given conventional, nonsurgical obesity treatment. A representative reference group of 1135 people from the general population was also included.

The results showed that the adjusted median life expectancy for patients who underwent bariatric surgery was 3 years (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-4.2) longer than in the control group, but 5.5 years shorter vs the general population.

The 2 most common causes of death in the study were from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. Participants in the bariatric surgery group had a lower CVD mortality rate (hazard ratio [HR], 0.70; 95% CI, 0.57-0.85) and a lower cancer mortality rate (HR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.61-0.96) vs the control group.

Despite these beneficial effects of bariatric surgery, only a minority of eligible patients undergo an operation, which is why the researchers emphasized the importance of providing patients appropriate information so they can make an informed decision.

“Obesity has long been known to reduce average life expectancy by some five to ten years. Our study shows that bariatric surgery prolongs it by three years. But even after surgery, patients still have a shorter life expectancy than the general population. That’s why it’s very important for bariatric patients to be offered adequate postoperative monitoring and follow-up,” concluded Ekander in the same press release.