Tenfold rise in gastic bands and other weight-loss ops
Published: 27th Aug 2010 03:41:16
The number of people in England undergoing surgery on the NHS to help them lose weight has increased tenfold in less than a decade.
The British Medical Journal reports operations such as gastric banding and bypasses rose from 238 a year to more than 2,543 in 2007.
Researchers from Imperial College London said more obese patients were now aware that surgery could help them.
However, one charity said some areas still did not offer the operations.
There are still places in the UK where weight-loss surgery is not taking place on the NHS”
Experts at the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended in 2002 that people classed as "morbidly obese" should be considered for surgery if other weight-loss methods had failed.
In simple terms, the operations, sometimes called "bariatric surgery", work by restricting the amount of nutrients that can be digested and absorbed by the intestine.
Gastric banding involves reducing the size of the stomach with a band fitted around it, while a gastric bypass reroutes food to a small stomach pouch created by surgeons. A third, less frequently used procedure, removes a portion of the stomach.
The Imperial researchers, led by Dr Omar Faiz, found that three-quarters of the operations were carried out using "keyhole" techniques, which avoid the need for a large surgical incision, and that there was no evidence of any safety problems despite the swift increase in the number of operations across the NHS.
However, they did not look into whether the operations actually helped the patients lose weight.
Between April 2000 and March 2008, when the study data ended, there were 6,953 operations carried out by the NHS.
In 2000, there were only 238, while in 2007, there were 2,543.
The researchers, led by said: "Bariatric surgery has increased exponentially in England in recent years.
"In conjunction with the growing level of obesity, as patients become more aware of surgery as a viable treatment option, demand for surgery among morbidly obese patients increases."
They said that primary care trusts, who currently decide which treatments to fund in local areas, should be encouraged to pay for obesity surgery.
Peter Sedman, a bariatric surgeon and spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: "We are beginning to catch up with a backlog that has been building for decades, and we are only now beginning to catch up with the US and other European countries in providing this care.
"The number of morbidly obese patients in the UK is increasing rapidly and we need to continue to put even more resources in to what is proven to be a successful and cost-effective method of treatment. The burden on the NHS in years to come in obesity-related illness will otherwise be overwhelming."
Chrissie Palmer, at the British Obesity Surgery Patients Association, which helps provide information and support to patients considering or undergoing weight-loss surgery, said the rise in operations was welcome.
However, she said: "There are still places in the UK where weight-loss surgery is not taking place on the NHS, despite the advice from NICE."
She added that there was still some stigma wrongly attached to it despite the enormous lifestyle changes required by patients both before and after.
"I don't think people understand what an large commitment is involved - people have to change their behaviour for life, although once they start feeling the benefits, it becomes easier."
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Tenfold rise in gastic bands and other weight-loss ops. [Online] (Updated 27 Aug 2010)
Available at: http://www.yorkshirewired.co.uk/news.php/85263-Tenfold-rise-in-gastic-bands-and-other-weight-loss-ops [Accessed 18th June 2013]
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