In its first focused look at bariatric (weight-loss) surgery, the American Heart Association (AHA) said the procedure is appropriate for reducing cardiac risk factors, but only for certain groups of severely obese individuals for whom the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks. Previously, the AHA said bariatric surgery should be considered as a weight-loss treatment for individual patients following careful evaluation by a physician.
In a new scientific statement, the AHA said that bariatric surgery is a viable option for weight reduction in patients who are severely obese, who can safely undergo the surgical procedure, and who have not succeeded in losing weight through diet, exercise, and behavioral modification. The AHA defines severe obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 40 or a BMI of greater than 35 when it is accompanied by an obesity-related condition that can affect heart health, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, or obstructive sleep apnea. The statement authors said that bariatric surgery can lead to significant weight loss and reduce health risks associated with these conditions, as well as risks associated with high cholesterol, liver disease, and cardiovascular dysfunction.
“The statement is not an across-the-board endorsement of bariatric surgery for the severely obese,” said lead author Paul Poirier, MD, PhD, director of the prevention/rehabilitation program at Quebec Heart and Lung Institute at Laval University Hospital in Quebec City, Canada, in a release. “It is a consensus document that provides expert perspective based on the results of recent scientific studies.”
The AHA’s statement follows a US Food and Drug Administration announcement that the agency was lowering the BMI threshold from 35 to 30 for performing one type of bariatric procedure in persons who have obesity-related health problems. The AHA scientific statement authors acknowledged that some studies suggest that bariatric surgery benefits patients with the lower BMI, but cautioned that long-term data are necessary before the approach can become a standard practice in such individuals.