Weight Loss Surgery: How Old is Too Old?

Weight loss surgery has only become popular as a treatment option for morbid obesity over the past 15 years. In 2010, more than 220,000 patients had weight loss surgery in the U.S., compared to only 18,100 bariatric surgeries in 1995. The majority of bariatric patients are in their 30s and 40s, but many older individuals undergo weight loss surgery, as well. The question is, how old is too old?

According to a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 85 percent of all bariatric patients are ages 18 to 54. In fact, half of all weight loss surgery patients are women between the ages of 18 and 45. But, that doesn’t mean that 54 is the cut-off age.

Options for Older Patients
Many experienced bariatric surgeons will treat patients in their 60s and even their early 70s, assuming that the risks of surgery can be minimized. Patients with a history of heart attack or stroke are generally not considered as viable candidates, because the risk of mortality is too high. Likewise, patients who smoke – at any age – usually will be declined for a weight loss surgery procedure, such as Lap-Band or gastric bypass surgery.

Dr. David Provost often treats high-risk patients at his practice, including patients over the age of 50. He notes that although advanced age does increase the risk of death after bariatric surgery, it is only one of several factors taken into consideration when determining whether surgery is a viable treatment option. According to a 2009 study reported in the Archives of Surgery, super-obesity (BMI > 50kg/m2) and a greater burden of chronic disease are more closely linked to higher mortality rates after weight loss surgery than a patient’s age.

Even so, age is still a primary consideration when assessing a patient’s risk of dying from weight loss surgery.

“Five major risk factors predict mortality – increased age, especially after age 45, increased BMI, male gender, risk factors for pulmonary thrombosis, and comorbid conditions,” said Dr. Philip Schauer, director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and one of the researchers involved in a 2007 multicenter study on mortality risk for gastric bypass surgery patients.

A Safer Treatment for Obesity
Fortunately, the risk of mortality is low for all kinds of weight loss surgery procedures. Studies indicate that the risk of dying within one year of a bariatric procedure is less than 1 percent, making weight loss surgery one of the most effective treatment options for patients who are unable to overcome clinical obesity through diet and exercise alone.

If you are considering a weight loss surgery procedure, we invite you to attend one of our informational meetings. You can also call our office at (254) 724-2397 and schedule a consultation with Dr. Provost to ask questions about recommended treatment options and learn more about how to gain control of your weight and your health.

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