How old is too old for bariatric surgery?

Once considered a fringe treatment, bariatric surgery has become widely accepted – hailed for its cost-effectiveness, advocated by the International Diabetes Federation and increasingly funded by Medicare and insurance companies alike. 

But recent research is also highlighting some of the limitations of the procedure. This month the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study comparing  mortality rates among 850 veterans with a mean age of 49.5 years who had bariatric surgery with 41,244 non-surgical controls with an average age of 54.7 years. 

The researchers found that bariatric surgery did not reduce mortality in these “older, high-risk” patients – at least not in the 6.7-year follow-up period of this study. 

Moreover, post-operative mortality rates were unusually high: 11 of 850 surgical case patients died within 30 days of surgery. That works out to 1.29%, a figure about four times