The High Costs of Gastric Bypass Surgeries

By: healthia
Today, one out of every five adult American men and one out of every four adult American women are obese. Most of them just need to improve diet and exercise. But about 170,000 per year are having gastric bypass surgery to lose weight.

The operation is not inexpensive. The average asking price is $38,700. While some consider the radical weight-loss surgery cosmetic, in reality it can be a crucial procedure for someone whose life is being put at risk from obesity.

Gastric bypass surgeries typically show up in the press when we hear about another celebrity who has had one. Of the stars that have had gastric bypass surgery, the most famous may be singer Carnie Wilson, who was 300 pounds before she had the operation in 1999. She later made an appearance in Playboy to show off her new slimmed-down body, before appearing on TV again in 2006 to discuss a small amount of the weight she managed to regain after having a child.

Lost in some of the celebrity press coverage are the life-or-death issues at stake when someone undergoes the procedure. A gastroenterologist generally recommends the surgery only if a patient suffers from morbid obesity. For someone who has become morbidly obese, it is too late for traditional weight loss techniques such as diet and exercise. Someone suffering from this extreme type of obesity has already developed co-morbidities, which may include sleep apnea (airway obstruction during sleep), hypertension, adult onset diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

At this stage, the only effective treatment for the condition is gastric bypass surgery. With an average asking price of $38,700, it's a procedure that few people can afford without insurance. Unfortunately, many insurance companies won't cover it, arguing it is an elective procedure.

But, for something supposedly cosmetic and elective, gastric bypass surgery is an extremely risky undertaking. According to a study by the University of Washington, 1 in 50 people die after undergoing the surgery. Men over the age of 65 were at the greatest risk following surgery.

As the demand for the surgery has expanded, so has litigation over the after-effects, with some attorneys charging that doctors have entered the lucrative gastric bypass surgery market too early. According to some reports, one cause of injuries is inexperienced doctors rushing into the lucrative field to perform the increasingly popular surgery, which typically costs between $25,000 and $30,000.

In addition, someone who has undertaken the operation can suffer from these side effects:

Nutritional deficiencies
Dumping syndrome, where stomach contents move too rapidly through the small intestine, causing nausea, diarrhea and other problems after eating
Gallstones
Pouch stretching, when the stomach essentially stretches back to its old size
Acidic contents of the stomach leaking into the abdomen.

In short, gastric bypass surgery is not a procedure that should be taken lightly, either by the patient or by his or her doctor. Before undergoing the procedure, it's of course important to have insurance coverage that will take care of both the costs of the operation itself and the aftermath.

Although most patients achieve successful outcomes, a significant proportion may develop postoperative gastrointestinal symptoms. Whether these symptoms represent necessary evils (adverse events related to dietary indiscretion) or unnecessary evils (postoperative complications) is difficult to interpret clinically, and frequently will require gastroenterology consultation.

Despite the negative side effects, people who undergo gastric bypass surgery generally enjoy significant weight loss, losing 60-70 percent of their excess weight over two years and keeping off at least 50 percent of what they lost a decade after surgery.

Even with the risk of death, gastric bypass surgery can be necessary operation because obesity is often a death sentence. 300,000 Americans die every year from being overweight.
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