Four Key Obesity Surgery Trends

Obesity surgery trends are a little hard to decipher for any number of reasons. The data is scattered, government statistics are spotty, and ASMBS stopped reporting surgical volumes after 2007. But sifting through all the available information, some trends are apparent.

Gooogle Trends - Interest in Bariatric Surgeries

  1. Volumes Slowly Recovering. The total volume of obesity surgeries took quite a hit in 2008 with the onset of the Great Recession. Start with the fact that obesity surgery involves substantial out-of-pocket expenses for people with obesity. Add to that the loss of health insurance for many people because of the recession. The final blow was the end of direct-to-consumer advertising by the makers of the Lap Band. You’ll see in the chart at the right that consumer interest in bariatric surgery — measured by Internet search volume — seems to have hit bottom in 2012. Slow recovery has come since then. These numbers parallel estimates of bariatric surgery procedures in the U.S. over the same period. The recovery in surgical volumes is very uneven. Some centers have not recovered. But new centers are opening and others are prospering. Some analysts are forecasting growth in outpatient procedures.
  2. Bands Peaked and Fell Back. Lap Band surgery volumes peaked in 2007 and have fallen ever since. It’s not yet clear whether band volumes have finally stabilized or they will continue to fall. Surgeons who continue to be fans of the band insist that aftercare and realistic expectations are the key to good outcomes, along with careful patient selection.
  3. Sleeves Rising. As gastric bands have fallen out of favor, gastric sleeves have steadily gained. And those gains are continuing.
  4. Bypass Volumes Steady. Gastric bypass procedures were edged out of the top spot among obesity surgery options in 2007 by gastric bands. Because the band fell out of favor as quickly as it rose, bypass volumes were more quickly stabilized after the recession faded. And now bypass is once again the number one procedure.

Click here for an overview of some of the dynamics of obesity surgery and here for a sharp perspective on the rise and fall of the Lap Band. For more information on bariatric surgery options, click here .

Polar Mesospheric Clouds, photograph © NASA Johnson Space Center / flickr

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April 15, 2014