Bariatric surgery has emerged as the most effective treatment for class III obesity (body mass index, ≥40). The number of operations continues to increase. We measured case fatality and death rates by time since operation, sex, age, specific causes of death, and mortality rates.
Design and Setting
Data on all bariatric operations performed on Pennsylvania residents between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 2004, were obtained from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost and Containment Council. Matching mortality data were obtained from the Division of Vital Records, Pennsylvania State Department of Health.
Age- and sex-specific death rates after bariatric surgery.
There were 440 deaths after 16 683 operations (2.6%). Age-specific death rates were much higher in men than in women and increased with age. Age- and sex-specific death rates after bariatric surgery were substantially higher than comparable rates for the age- and sex-matched Pennsylvania population. The 1-year case fatality rate was approximately 1% and nearly 6% at 5 years. Less than 1% of deaths occurred within the first 30 days. Fatality increased substantially with age (especially among those > 65 years), with little evidence of change over time. Coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death overall, being cited as the cause of death in 76 patients (19.2%). Therapeutic complications accounted for 38 of 150 natural deaths within the first 30 days, including pulmonary embolism in 31 (20.7%), coronary heart disease in 26 (17.3%), and sepsis in 17 (11.3%).
There was a substantial excess of deaths owing to suicide and coronary heart disease. Careful monitoring of bariatric surgical procedures and more intense follow-up could likely reduce the long-term case fatality rate in this patient population.