RACS Media Release

ROYAL AUSTRALASIAN COLLEGE OF SURGEONS

MEDIA RELEASE

Excellent Results for Gastric Bypass Surgery

A research paper examining the current lifestyles of 342 formerly seriously obese patients up to 14 years after they received gastric bypass operations leaves little doubt as to the efficacy of this surgery in treating severe obesity - researchers say.

The paper, co-authored by Mr Richard Stubbs and Dr Sarah White from the Wakefield Gastroenterlogy Centre in Wellington, will be presented by Dr White at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in Auckland on Thursday. Mr Stubbs will be in Japan presenting another paper on the research findings to the International Federation for Surgery of Obesity.

Dr White spent six months tracking down former patients who had been operated on by Mr Richard Stubbs over a 14-year period. The research, which shows the health outcomes of 88 per cent of those operated on - is the most complete data anywhere in the world on long-term outcomes for people who have had gastric bypass surgery, Mr Stubbs says.

I can say with confidence that these people have not only kept their weight off, but have experienced major health benefits from a withdrawal of diabetes, to reduction in blood pressure and in lipid abnormalities.

The cynics of gastric bypass have wanted us to produce long-term benefits of the operation. We have done this. We now know with certainty the gastric bypass operation successfully changes peoples lives for the better, Mr Stubbs said

He said for at least a decade, a growing number of medical specialists had recognised that surgery was the most effective way to secure managed weight loss for the chronically or morbidly obese. Yet there was no public funding for gastric bypass in New Zealand nor was it covered by medical insurance.

The authors say too little research verifying the universally successful long-term results for people who have had gastric bypass surgery may be at least partly responsible for this seeming lack of concern by medical funding agencies.

An estimated 200,000 overweight people are catagorised chronically obese posing serious health problems, both physical and mental, with long-term (sometimes life-long) afflictions such as depression, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol and back, hip and knee problems.

Six per cent, or one in every 16 overweight people are further defined as morbidly obese, weighing more than twice their ideal body weight, and for them, life expectancy drops to little more than 60 years.

Mr Stubbs said gastric bypass surgery was the fastest growing area of general surgery in the world, New Zealand is just beginning to acknowledge it but we have a long way to go in terms of funding the surgery and training the surgeons to do it.

It will be years before the operation is readily available. Even when the funding is available, we dont have the surgeons to do it. It would take a competent surgeon a year to learn the technique. We would also need to build surgical teams around these people, he said

New Zealand surgeons undertake 300 to 400 gastric bypass operations a year. Richard Stubbs does about half of them. There are potentially 200,000 chronically obese people who would benefit from the operation, he says.

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