The Pain Of Andromache

Less Pain and Better Function after Obesity Surgery

The tremendous growth in understanding obesity as a metabolic disease makes it easy to lose track of the physical aspects of this chronic, debilitating disease — but not for the people who suffer from it. The fact is that severe obesity extracts a terrible toll of physical pain and impaired mobility. So it’s great to see new data in JAMA from the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 (LABS-2) that quantifies physical benefits of bariatric surgery: less pain and better physical function.

Recently, much new data has been emerging on the metabolic benefits of bariatric surgery, its unmatched potential for bringing type 2 diabetes into remission for example. But Wendy King and colleagues from the LABS-2 study team focused on physical outcomes. They showed after one year that 58% of patients with severe obesity experienced significant improvement in bodily pain and 77% had significant improvements in physical functioning. King explained:

We found through three years of follow-up that, depending on the measure, 50 to 75 percent of adults with severe obesity who had bariatric surgery experienced clinically significant improvements in pain, physical functioning and walking time. Our findings reinforce the findings of shorter-term studies.

Severe obesity is compounded when the disease itself gets in the way of physical activity, which in turn worsens the disease. Joint damage compounds the problem and untreated obesity can make joint repair or replacement more difficult or impossible. By bringing improvements that are often not possible through diet and exercise alone, surgery opens up potential for becoming more active and thus further improvements in health.

It’s worth noting that this is an observational study, and thus not definitive proof that surgery is directly responsible for the improvements observed. On the other hand, we have ample evidence that such bariatric surgery does bring improvements in the disease of obesity that is rarely seen otherwise.

All in all, this is excellent information to help people understand what to expect from bariatric surgery in a dimension that is often overlooked, but tremendously important.

Click here for the study in JAMA and here for more from Reuters.

The Pain Of Andromache, painting by Jacques-Louis David / WikiArt

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April 12, 2016

One Response to “Less Pain and Better Function after Obesity Surgery”

  1. April 12, 2016 at 10:40 am, Allen Browne said:

    Or, for the kids, better function and more participation after attainment of a healthy body composition. Something rarely, if ever, studied, but another reason for more tools to help the kids with obesity. Bariatric surgery teaches us a lot but our minds are like parachutes – “they only work when open”.