Weighing the Risks: Gastric Surgery May Lengthen Life

A recent study found that obese patients who received gastric surgery, rather than nonsurgical weight loss treatment, saw a significant decrease in mortality rates over a 4.5 year period. The researchers identified three specific surgeries, which effectively reduce the size of the stomach so that the patient will feel full with less food. The study consisted of over 8000 obese Israeli citizens and was conducted by the state health service.

The study lasted from 2005-2014, with each patient being followed up with for a minimum of one year after entering the study, an average of 4.5 years and a maximum of 11 years. Specifically, the findings reported a 1.3% mortality rate among obese patients who received gastric surgery and a 2.3% mortality rate among obese patients who opted for nonsurgical treatment. These findings are significant, because even with all the associated risks of surgery, there was still a higher survival rate with it than without.

There is a tendency to dismiss any treatment for obesity other than diet and exercise, as the presence or absence of these are the only treatment or cause of obesity. But in patients who have a history of struggling with this traditional prognosis, they would be better off having the surgery to force them into a lesser diet rather than face the health risks of continuing to remain obese under a less drastic treatment plan, based on these findings.

As a 10 year long study following the ongoing care of 8385 patients, the parameters are more than sufficient to inspire confidence in its results. And even though a 1.3-2.3% may sound small, it is a significant increase in the proportion of mortalities and an indicator of future health and longevity. So perhaps patients who struggle with obesity should consider gastric surgery as a new strategy.


Reges O, Greenland P, Dicker D, Leibowitz M, Hoshen M, Gofer I, Rasmussen-Torvik LJ, Balicer RD. Association of Bariatric Surgery Using Laparoscopic Banding, Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, or Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy vs Usual Care Obesity Management With All-Cause Mortality. JAMA. 2018;319(3):279–290. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.20513