Sep 16, 2022 5:45 am
Posted: Sep 16, 2022 5:45 am
Updated: September 16, 2022 8:47 am
FRIDAY, September 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Bariatric surgery aims to help severely obese patients lose significant weight, and now new research shows many can look forward to lasting pain relief and mobility as well.
Although many patients gain some weight in the first few years after bariatric surgery, the pain and movement benefits seem to be worthwhile over time. Seven years later, 43% of the approximately 1,500 patients enrolled in the study said their joint pain was noticeably less than before surgery, and nearly two-thirds said their physical functioning was still better.
“Previous studies had provided evidence that bariatric surgery is associated with clinically important improvements in pain, physical function, and work productivity; However, most studies only followed participants for one to two years, by which time participants were at the peak of their weight loss,” said lead author Wendy King. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.
King and her colleagues noted that patients experienced “clinically meaningful improvements in physical and joint pain and physical function” seven years after the two most common types of bariatric surgery — Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery.
The new study builds on previous research by the same team, which found that three years after bariatric surgery, 50% to 70% of patients reported less pain, better walking speed, and overall improved physical function.
Patients in the new study had weight-loss surgery between 2006 and 2009. About 8 in 10 were white women, ages 38 to 55.
Between three and seven years after surgery, the percentage of patients who still reported clinically meaningful gains in pain, physical function, and walking speed dropped — all between 7 and 11 percentage points, the study found.
Even so, after seven years, half of them were still walking 400 meters faster than before the operation. 43% still saw significant improvements in pain and 64% in physical function.
A better ability to cope with the physical demands of the job was another enduring benefit of the surgery.
While nearly two-thirds of participants said joint pain and their general health had affected their ability to do their jobs before surgery, this proportion dropped to 43% seven years later.
“I was impressed with the durability of the initial improvements in pain, function, and worker productivity before and after surgery,” said King, who added that the declines between three and seven years were small, especially considering that participants are aging .
Overall, the results contribute to the belief that “the benefits of modern bariatric surgical procedures — that is, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric sleeve removal — far outweigh the risks,” King said.
Lona Sandon, program director at the School of Health Professions at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, reviewed the findings.
She said the additional benefits highlighted in the study are well known to physicians, who usually point them out to potential patients, even when patients’ primary motivation for surgery is weight loss rather than pain relief.
“Insurance doesn’t authorize surgery based on pain scales or movement capacity because those aren’t considered medical diagnoses,” Sandon said, while obesity is one.
“Insurance companies aren’t good at paying for prevention either. So weight is a priority,” she said, leaving patients to consider any additional benefits of surgery as a “bonus” if and when they experience them.
“It’s nice to see that a long-term study shows these benefits last over time,” Sandon said. “Feeling better about your body with less pain and greater mobility can do a lot to improve mood and quality of life.”
The results were published in JAMA Network Open on September 14th.
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has more on the benefits of weight loss surgery.
SOURCES: Wendy King, PhD, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, Program Director and Associate Professor, Clinical Nutrition, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; JAMA Network Open, September 14, 2022