NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 24, 2006

About 40 percent of patients who have weight-loss surgeries develop complications within six months of the procedure, adding thousands of dollars to patients' medical bills, according to a new study by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The study, which examined insurance claims from 2,522 people who had weight-loss surgeries, most of them gastric bypass done with the open surgery. Among the findings:

  • About 22 percent had a complication during their initial hospital stay.
  • Overall, 18 percent returned to the hospital within six months with complications. They were either re-admitted, seen as an outpatient or treated in the emergency room.
  • Other complications included leakage problems at the site of the connection between the stomach and the intestine.
  • Those with complications had medical bills averaging $36,500, compared with about $25,000 for those with no complications.
  • Those who had to be re-admitted to the hospital had medical bills averaging about $65,000.

But despite potentially high costs, the surgery also has its benefits:

  • People who have procedures such as gastric bypass lose and keep off an average of 44 to 66 pounds for up to 10 years, research shows.
  • Diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and high cholesterol are often eliminated or improve; most diabetic patients get rid of the disease, which can cost $4,000 a year to treat.

Source: Nanci Hellmich "40% of weight-loss surgeries develop complications," USA Today, July 24, 2006; and Press Release, "Obesity Surgery Complication Rates Higher Over Time," Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, July 24, 2006.

For text (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Health Issues