While it doesn't feel that way in the patient community — I suppose it's because we don't track the numbers. It seems surprising because we are surrounded by peers, but apparently the economy has made potential bariatric patients put off the decision to have surgery for … now, at least.
Via AMA –
In a way, bariatric surgery is like the member of the chorus who spent years waiting for a big break, got it, became a star, and then found out that success was harder than it looked.
I HEART THAT SENTENCE. I realize the author may be referring to Surgery Itself, but I'm referring it to post ops. because That Is How It Feels.
After decades of slow growth since the first procedure was performed in 1954, rates escalated rapidly in the first few years of the 2000s but hit a wall recently. That wall may not be so easy to get past, even if the economy fully recovers.
A total of 36,700 bariatric surgeries were carried out in 2000, and then jumped 29% to 47,200 in 2001, according to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. An additional 63,100 were carried out in 2002, an increase of 34% from the previous year. In 2003, 103,200 procedures were performed for an annual growth rate of 64%, the biggest increase in the previous decade. Hospitals and large health systems opened bariatric surgery centers as revenue builders and to serve their communities. General surgeons started specializing in the procedure.
The growth and spread of bariatric surgery has slowed. Why? The economy. Obviously.
Bariatric surgery growth rates started to slow significantly in 2006, when 177,600 were performed, an increase of only 4% from the previous year. By 2008, the number hit 220,000 and stayed there for 2009. Numbers for subsequent years are not available, but experts believe they are staying flat or even declining.
“It’s definitely plateaued,” said Robin Blackstone, MD, ASMBS president. “I would say there may even be a small downturn in the numbers based on what we are hearing from around the country.”
This is in part because the recession from December 2007 to June 2009 left patients deferring or delaying many elective procedures. While no organization tracks a national number of elective surgeries, hospitals across the country have reported declines over the past five years. They have cited the drop in elective surgeries as a major inhibitor of their bottom lines.
Another cause of the flat line trend in the rise of bariatric surgery? INFORMATION.
Back in ye olden days when people like me had surgery, it was the early stages of Information Available Online About ALL Risks and Benefits of Bariatric Surgery.
My education came directly from a surgeon and a nutritionist and a psychologist and what little extraneous information I could find online. And, thanks to Al Roker, and Carnie Wilson, whom At The Time was 100% successful, and the media Ate It UP. Just saying.
I didn't get my full Bariatric Crash Course in life until after my surgery and subsequent searching for answers. Since then, I've been immersed at times in all-things-WLS. Considering that so many of us do just that — and share our findings online with peers? It's out there, things are different. People who are just considering weight loss surgery can research procedures and risks thoroughly, before ever seeing a doctor.
Positive or negative, the information is out there and they can get a full education prior to their decision to go forward or not.
“I talk to patients every day,” said Ed J. Hendricks, MD, a trustee of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. “They tell me, ‘My friend had bariatric surgery. Things are not going too well.’ People are beginning to realize it’s not a cure. It’s really just a tool.”