Bariatric surgery a good option for some with diabetes

UC Irvine Health experts praise new treatment guidelines

May 25, 2016

UC Irvine Health specialists applaud new recommendations that call for bariatric surgery to become a more common treatment option for obese with people diabetes. 

The connection between obesity and diabetes is well understood, said Dr. Ping H. Wang, director of the UC Irvine Health Diabetes Center.

“There is mounting evidence to indicate that bariatric surgery can be an effective therapy, or even a cure, for Type 2 diabetes in patients with high body mass index,” Wang said. “Until now, bariatric surgery was rarely offered to obese diabetes patients as therapeutic option for glucose, or blood sugar, control. This is a paradigm shift and could impact how diabetes patients are managed in the future.”

The recommendations were published this week in the journal Diabetes Care and were endorsed by the American Diabetes Association and more than 45 international diabetes advocacy groups, researchers and experts.

“The new guidelines will bring attention to providers caring for diabetic patients that bariatric surgery is an important complementary treatment option for diabetes,” said Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen, interim chair, UC Irvine Health Department of Surgery and a past president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. He said studies have shown that the majority of obese diabetics who undergo bariatric surgery have seen dramatic improvements in their blood sugar control.

Known as metabolic surgery when used for diabetes control, bariatric surgery includes the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and vertical sleeve gastrectomy. The guidelines call for referring diabetic patients with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher whose glucose is not properly controlled, or those with BMI greater than 40, to an experienced bariatric surgeon for consultation.

“Bariatric surgery these days are very safe when performed by experienced surgeons at qualified centers that emphasize a multidisciplinary team approach to the surgery and follow up care,” Nguyen said.

“However, these patients will need careful endocrine evaluation and medical screening to determine whether or not bariatric surgery is the right choice for them,” Wang said.

Diabetes affects nearly 26 million American children and adults, including seven million people who have yet to be diagnosed with the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in United States and is the leading cause of kidney failure, adult blindness and amputations of limbs not associated with trauma. It is also a major cause of heart disease, stroke and hypertension.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year and the disease’s national cost in 2012 was more than $245 billion, up from $174 billion in 2007.

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