New Report Addresses Complications from Weight Loss Surgery

People who are considering weight loss surgery often are concerned with the risks involved. Complication rates for U.S. bariatric surgery patients are generally low; however, Healthgrades, a leading independent health care ratings company, found that the quality of bariatric programs actually varies a great deal from hospital to hospital.

“Choosing Bariatric Surgery to Improve Overall Health: 2012 Healthgrades Trend Report” highlights just how important it is for those looking to get bariatric surgery to seek out a seasoned physician and a facility with a reputation for delivering exemplary care.

Dr. Arshad Rahim, the Group Vice President of Accelerated Clinical Excellence at Healthgrades, noted, “The striking variations we found in surgery charges and complication rates underscore the importance of being an informed consumer as you’re considering bariatric surgery.”

The Healthgrades report’s authors analyzed the number of procedures, surgery charges by state, procedure types, and complication rates of bariatric surgeries performed at 478 hospitals across 19 states from 2008 through 2010. The report rated all of the hospitals included the study as five-star (best), three-star (as expected), and one-star (poor).

The authors found that patients were significantly less likely to experience in-hospital complications at five-star hospitals than they were at one-star hospitals. While, intuitively, this finding makes sense, the degree of difference is startling; patients who visited a five-star hospital were nearly 73 percent less likely to experience in-hospital complications.

According to the authors of the Healthgrades report, 5,788 patients suffered in-hospital complications because they did not have their bariatric surgery performed in a five-star hospital.

“I’ve been a bariatric surgeon for 20 years, and I know firsthand that hospitals that deliver consistently excellent care deliver better patient outcomes,” said Dr. David Provost, who was not surprised by the findings noted in the Healthgrades report.

In addition, the Healthgrades report found that, like the quality of bariatric programs themselves, the costs associated with bariatric surgery can vary a great deal from hospital to hospital. Hospitals in California charged the most for weight loss surgery; on average, a bariatric procedure in the state costs around $57,000. Maryland hospitals, in contrast, charge only $16,000.

Interestingly, the study did not find any correlation between the cost of the bariatric surgery and the quality of care patients typically received. On average, five-star hospitals charge $3,189 less for bariatric procedures than one-star hospitals, according to Healthgrades. For those seeking high-quality bariatric care, this should be an encouraging finding. The report provides conclusive evidence that those looking for excellent care needn’t worry about having to pay premium prices for it.

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