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Too Few Candid Conversations About Weight-Loss Surgery

Mon, 06/13/2011 - 7:06am

Significant barriers are keeping adults affected by obesity and physicians from talking frankly about bariatric surgery, a new survey sponsored by the Obesity Action Coalition and Ethicon Endo-Surgery shows. The survey found that while four in five adults affected by obesity had discussed weight with their health care provider, only one in 10 who meet the National Institutes of Health guidelines for bariatric surgery have had their doctor recommend it. The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive among adults affected by obesity, U.S. adults who have undergone bariatric surgery and 495 physicians.

Results indicate that the majority of patients and half of physicians wish the surgery had been suggested sooner. "Healthcare professionals should be having detailed discussions with people suffering from obesity about all their treatment options, including weight-loss surgery," said Joe Nadglowski, President and Chief Executive Officer, Obesity Action Coalition. "The survey results indicate that doctors are not speaking to patients about their weight and the effects it can have on their health. Informed patients can proactively manage their health and improve their quality of life."

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and other national medical associations, bariatric surgery is the most effective therapy available for morbid obesity and can result in improvement or complete resolution of obesity comorbidities. The healthcare professionals surveyed tend to underestimate patients' willingness to discuss their weight and their receptiveness to discuss treatment options, such as bariatric surgery.

Six in 10 physicians surveyed believe most individuals affected by obesity are too embarrassed to discuss their weight with a healthcare professional. However, almost 3 in 4 patients who have had weight-loss surgery and more than 4 in 5 adults who haven't, reported they have not been too embarrassed, suggesting the conversation would be welcomed. Further, of those bariatric surgery patients whose healthcare provider suggested surgery, 9 in 10 felt positive feelings as a result of their suggestion.

The top perceived drawback of bariatric surgery for individuals affected by obesity is the misplaced fear that it is dangerous. Physicians share this concern, with eight of 10 reporting fear of surgery complications as one of the biggest barriers. "It is important to stress that while there are risks involved - as with any surgical procedure - bariatric surgery is considered a safe option," said Dr. Christopher Still, Director of the Geisinger Obesity Institute, Medical Director, Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, and OAC Board Member.

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