Sunday, August 10, 2008

Comments on the HealthGrades Third Annual Bariatric Surgical Study

HealthGrades recently released its third annual study on bariatric surgery. And the important headline from the study results is that bariatric surgical hospitals that have performed the most surgeries have less associated surgical complications.

Hospitals performing 125 surgeries [or more] per year had the lowest complications, and hospitals performing less than 25 surgeries per year had the most complications. HealthGrades rated the hospitals. And top rated hospitals had 65% percent fewer complications than the lowest rated hospitals.

This is useful information for the bariatric industry, since the study points to a specific strategic move a bariatric surgical center should make. It is this: A bariatric surgical center should strive to build or maintain an experienced bariatric surgical team.

The study results also represent useful information for potential bariatric surgical patients. The study indicates that a prospective bariatric surgical patient would do well to ensure that a chosen bariatric center has the requisite experience to minimize complications.

While the above study results are important, some of the other results from the study are also important. For example, there has been a decrease in inpatient bariatric surgery, and an increase in outpatient bariatric surgery. And bariatric patients are choosing less invasive forms of bariatric surgery.

There was one worrisome item, however, from the study. Although short term complications were lower for laparoscopic surgery than for open bariatric surgery, some long term complications were higher for laparoscopic bariatric surgery than for open laparoscopic surgery. Furthermore, as reported in a Mayo Clinic article, laparoscopic bariatric surgeries resulted in more leaks in intestinal connections and more internal hernias than the open surgeries.

We hope the causes of these complications can be determined. We feel that minimally invasive surgery is important to bariatric surgery. However, if laparoscopic surgery sometimes introduces more complications than open surgery, the potential complications could be a threat to minimally invasive bariatric surgery.


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