Skip to content

Gastric bypass and older patients: The life-saving potential of weight loss surgery

Before and After BMI

March 28, 2016

Gastric bypass and older patients: The life-saving potential of weight loss surgery

New studies show that gastric bypass surgery can have positive effects on the health of older and elderly patients.

If you’re an older adult between the ages of 55 and 74, you may think it’s too late to do anything about your poor health. However, according to a study published by MedPage Today, elderly adults who undergo gastric bypass weight loss surgery enjoy the same level of benefits as younger patients. The study was conducted by a research team based at Brigham Young University.

The hypothesis

Going into the study, research team leader Lance Davidson, PhD, predicted that undergoing gastric bypass surgery at an older age wouldn’t have the same effectiveness as it did for younger patients. The hypothesis was derived from the idea that long-standing disease and poor health would be harder to reverse in elderly patients.

However, the research team was pleasantly surprised to have its hypothesis proven wrong. Davidson and his team wrote: “It appears that severely obese persons aged 55 through 74 years who undergo gastric bypass surgery are likely to have significantly reduced long-term mortality compared with age-matched individuals not undergoing surgery.”

The study

The long-term study examined results from 7,925 gastric bypass surgery patients whose procedures were performed between 1984 and 2002. At the time of surgery, the mean age was about 40 years and body mass index (BMI) was about 45.

The research team paired up patients who underwent surgery with a control group of individuals who did not have weight loss surgery. Matches were found from Utah driver’s license records, and they were paired up based on age, gender and BMI.

The research team followed up with patients and their matched controls after each surgery for up to 18 years. Results were reported based on age.

The results

After a mean follow-up period of about seven years, 213 deaths from the surgery group and 321 deaths from the control group were reported. Here are the results broken down into age groups:

  • The 55- to 74-year-olds who had gastric bypasses were 50% less likely to die after seven years than their control counterparts.
  • The 45- to 54-year-olds who underwent surgery had a 43% lower mortality rate than those who didn’t.
  • The 35- to 44-year-olds who pursued weight loss surgery saw a mortality risk reduction of 54% compared to the control group.
  • The under-35-year-olds who had surgery experienced an insignificant decrease in mortality risk compared to those who didn’t.

These results took any cause of death into account, including accidents that had nothing to do with the patient’s weight or overall health. Davidson found that externally caused deaths (suicide, homicide and injuries) were a major reason for the higher mortality rate among younger surgery patients. However, in all age groups, the mortality rate from heart disease and cancer was significantly lower among those who had gastric bypass surgery.

The takeaways

These results show that if you’re an older adult, you can improve your quality of life and live years longer by getting the gastric bypass surgery you’ve been putting off. While results are positive among the elderly, this finding doesn’t imply that you should wait until you’re older to pursue gastric bypass if you’re severely obese. You can enjoy the benefits of weight loss surgery today!

As for the under-35-year-old group, the increased risk of dissatisfaction after surgery, especially among women, points to a greater need to prepare patients before surgery and follow up after the procedure to help mitigate avoidable causes of death.

If you’re interested in learning more about gastric bypass surgery and what it can do to enhance and prolong your life, please contact BMI of Texas. Our experienced doctors can discuss your expectations before you move forward with your weight loss surgery plan.

You might also be interested in: Do I Qualify for Weight Loss Surgery?