Bariatric Surgery for Diabetes: Is it Safe?

On several occasions I have blogged about the effectiveness of Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) for type II diabetes. In patients recently diagnosed with type II diabetes, having a gastric bypass will put the diabetes into remission 85% of the time. Quite an impressive statistic. But is it a safe operation?

A recent study that used the American College of Surgeons quality data-base answers this question with confidence. This study looked at 66,000 patients with diabetes and compared post-op complications and mortality between gastric bypass and several common surgical procedures like heart bypass, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, appendectomy, and colon surgery. It also compared post-op results with laparoscopic hysterectomy and knee surgery replacement.

The results for gastric bypass were very good and  very convincing.  The overall complication rate for gastric bypass was 3.4%. The overall mortality rate for gastric bypass was 0.3%–about the same for knee replacement surgery. Only laparoscopic hysterectomies had a lower mortality rate. Interestingly, laparoscopic appendectomy and gallbladder surgery had a little higher mortality rate of 0.5%, while heart bypass had a 10 times higher mortality rate than gastric bypass.

This is very meaningful information for the patient with type II diabetes. I see patients every week with type II diabetes and other co-morbidities. Many of these patients have delayed surgical treatment for morbid obesity thinking that the surgery is very risky.  But, in fact, it is very safe. With early surgical therapy following a diagnosis of type II diabetes, 85% of the time the diabetes will go into remission, and in many cases, avoid the possibility of damage to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and limbs due to the progression of diabetes.

In conclusion, gastric bypass is safe. It involves about the same risk as having your appendix or gallbladder removed. The benefits of gastric bypass far outweigh the risks. So, don’t let the potential risk of surgery prevent you from receiving life-changing treatment.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please call Colorado Bariatric Surgery Institute (303-861-4505) and we will be happy to assist you.

Some food for thought…happy summer!

Tom Brown, MD