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Quality Up, Costs Down

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States giving energy to the risks of such serious conditions as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The number of people turning to bariatric surgery has grown by leaps and bounds and the outcomes of this surgery are better and the costs are lower.

According to a study done from 2002 to 2006 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), six-month complication rates have dropped 21 percent due to improved surgical proficiency and increased use of laparoscopic surgery over open surgery. Most of the improvement was seen in the initial hospital stay where complication rates declined by more than one-third, according to the study.

In an article by Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director of the AHRQ, she cited positive long-term health benefits for bariatric patients. She points to diabetes being completely resolved in more than 76 percent of patients and high blood pressure resolved in nearly 62 percent. AHRQ researchers found the trend toward having laparoscopic bariatric surgery yielded improvements in outcomes and costs. The six-month complication rate declined by 21 percent and the 30-day complication rate declined by 24 percent. The decline in complications occurred even with an increased in the percentage of older and sicker patients undergoing the surgeries, the study said.

Along with improved outcomes come lower hospital costs. William E. Encinosa, PhD, AHRQ lead researcher and senior economist, points to three reasons for improved outcomes and lower costs:

  • Increased use of laparoscopy
  • Greater use of banding procedures without bypass
  • Increased surgical expertise resulting from higher volume

In fact, studies have shown laparoscopic surgery decreased the incidence of complications by 30 percent.

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