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A new study suggests that bariatric surgery may be safe and effective for patients with a body mass index (BMI) lower than the current standard for bariatric surgery. Currently, insurance and government payers in the United States cover bariatric surgery only for patients with a higher BMI.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s 1991 consensus conference on gastrointestinal surgery for severe obesity, patients only qualify as candidates for bariatric surgery if they have a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2. Those with serious comorbidities, such as diabetes or high blood pressure that make the state of obesity exceptionally unsafe, qualified if they have a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2. Several previous studies suggested that patients with lower BMIs could also benefit from surgery, but this new study demonstrates the safety and efficacy of bariatric surgery for these patients.

Chilean Study Shows Bariatric Surgery Safe and Effective for Patients with Lower BMI

Researchers from Chile enrolled 1,160 patients into the study. Of these, 292 had gastric bypass and 868 had sleeve gastrectomy. Each patient had a starting BMI of 30 to 35 before surgery. Dr. Boza, lead author of the study, reported the outcomes after three years. Key results from the study included:

• No deaths and a re-operation rate < 5%

• Weight decreased to near ideal without going too low

• Very high percentage of remission for diabetes, high blood pressure, and lipid problems

The result of this study confirms the positive experience that we have had here in San Antonio. After an intense review of the information gained in this exhaustive study, the developing consensus is that surgical treatment can prevent long-lasting damage in patients who cannot control metabolic obesity through lifestyle changes and medication.

Check out the detailed review of this breakthrough study in General Surgery News.