Side Effects of Weight-Loss Surgery Linked to Risk of Fractures: Study

A popular form of weight loss surgery could more than double the risk of bone fractures, according to a new study. 

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that patients who underwent bariatric surgery for weight loss were 2.3 times more likely to suffer a bone fracture than those who have not had the surgery. The findings were presented on Saturday at an annual meeting of the Endocrine’s Society in Boston.

The researchers looked at data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project and identified 277 people from Minnesota who had undergone bariatric surgery between 1985 and 2004, more than 80% of whom were women. They found that 94% of those subjects underwent gastric bypass, the most common form of bariatric surgery. Bone fractures were suffered by 79 of those patients in the nine years following the procedure.

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While the overall risk of bone fractures after bariatric surgery was more than doubled, the risk of fractures involving the hands and feet was more than triple that of the general population.

According to the findings, those who were more physically active before the surgery were at a lower risk of fractures than those who were less physically active. The researchers also found that patients who tried to ensure that they got enough calcium and vitamin D fared no better in preventing bone fractures than those who did not.

The study did not include more recent bariatric surgery techniques, such as gastric banding, known as lap bands.

Gastric bypass surgery alters the size and shape of the stomach and intestines to address issues of extreme obesity and to promote rapid weight loss. The procedure has gained in popularity in recent years, but the changes to the body require recipients to also permanently alter the way they eat to ensure they receive the proper balance of nutrients.

The study is just the latest incident that raises questions about the safety of gastric bypass surgery. Previous studies suggest that gastric bypass surgery side effects may increase the risk of birth defects among teen mothers, and could include permanent neurological damage that could cause hallucinations, weakness or even paralysis. That study, published in 2007 in the medical journal, Neurology, also pointed to nutrient deficiencies as the likely cause of the damage.

There have been a number of gastric bypass lawsuits filed by people who died or suffered severe complications from the surgery. A January 2005 study found that nearly one out of every 50 people die within a month of having the surgery, and lawsuits have suggested that inexperienced surgeons and a lack of sufficient screening as to who should receive the surgery have been contributing factors.


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