Weight Loss Surgery Risks Greater For Those With Kidney Problems: Study

Although bariatric surgery may help patients with kidney disease lose weight, new research suggests that the weight loss procedure may also carry an increased risk of serious complications and side effects for individuals with kidney problems. 

According to a study presented last week during the 2013 American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, researchers found that obese patients who underwent laparoscopic bariatric surgery did lose weight, but also experienced very serious side effects, including several who died.

The retrospective study examined 74 obese patients with kidney disease who had bariatric surgery from 2007 to 2012. The laparoscopic bariatric surgeries were performed at one of three major London teaching hospitals.

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Since the findings were presented at a medical conference, they are only considered preliminary until the study is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Bariatric surgery is considered by some health experts to be the most effective treatment for obesity and can help kidney disease patients shed excess pounds. One year after the bariatric surgeries, 61 percent of patients had lost excess weight, but 16 patients had experienced adverse events, including two deaths.

The most common side effect of the weight loss surgery, which occurred in four percent of patients, was acute kidney damage. Other side effects included acidosis, chest infection, vitamin B12 and iron deficiency, graft failure and heart attack.  Four other deaths occurred during the study, two related to cancer.

Helen MacLaughlin and her team of researchers at Kings College London found the complication rate was higher among patients with chronic kidney disease than among those without.

Concerns regarding bariatric surgery have gained widespread media attention recently, as several studies have pointed to issues concerning the weight loss procedure.

According to a study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the risk of weight loss surgery complications may be linked to the skill and expertise of the surgeons. The report found that surgeons who had the lowest peer ratings of expertise had a higher percentage of complications and higher mortality rates following the weight loss procedures.

In 2011, researchers found many patients who underwent gastric Lap-Band surgery required additional surgery or needed to have the banding removed. Nearly one-third of patients found their bands eroded the wall of their stomach.

In another study, published last year, researchers found patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery may be at an increased risk for substance abuse and alcohol addiction. The research revealed patients had a 50% increase in the frequency of drug and alcohol use.

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