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Original Investigation
June 2016

Prevalence of Self-reported Symptoms After Gastric Bypass Surgery for Obesity

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 2Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Surg. 2016;151(6):504-511. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.5110

Importance  Population-based studies on the prevalence of symptoms after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery are sparse. Knowledge about possible predictors of these symptoms is important for prevention.

Objectives  To examine patients’ overall well-being and the prevalence and predictors of medical, nutritional, and surgical symptoms after RYGB surgery, and their association with quality of life.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A survey was conducted from March 3 to July 31, 2014, among 2238 patients who underwent RYGB surgery between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2011, in the Central Denmark Region. A comparison cohort of 89 individuals who were matched with patients according to sex and body mass index but who did not undergo RYGB surgery were surveyed as a point of reference. Data analysis was conducted from September 1, 2014, to June 25, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Prevalence and severity (based on contacts with health care system, ranging from no contact to hospitalization) of self-reported symptoms following RYGB surgery. Prevalence ratios (PRs) of symptoms associated with different predictors were computed. The association between number of symptoms and quality of life was investigated using the Spearman rank correlation coefficient.

Results  Of 2238 patients undergoing RYGB surgery, 1429 (63.7%) responded to the survey. Among these patients, 1266 (88.6%) reported 1 or more symptoms a median of 4.7 years after RYGB surgery. Mean age at the time of the survey was 47.1 years (range, 26.9-68.0 years), and 286 were men (20.0%). A total of 1219 of 1394 patients (87.4%) reported that their well-being was improved after vs before RYGB surgery, while 113 (8.1%) reported reduced well-being. Symptoms after RYGB surgery were reported by 1266 patients (88.6%); 966 patients (67.6%) had been in contact with the health care system about their symptoms vs 31 [34.8%] of those in the comparison group, and 416 (29.1%) had been hospitalized vs 6 [6.7%] of those in the comparison group. The symptoms most commonly leading to health care contact after RYGB surgery were abdominal pain (489 [34.2%]), fatigue (488 [34.1%]), and anemia (396 [27.7%]). The risk of symptoms was higher among women (crude PR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.11-1.37), among patients younger than 35 years (PR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.13-1.36), among smokers (PR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.02-1.20), among unemployed persons (PR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.06-1.24), and in those with surgical symptoms before RYGB surgery (PR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.25-1.43). Quality of life was inversely associated with the number of symptoms (r = –0.30; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance  Most patients reported improved well-being after RYGB surgery, but the prevalence of symptoms was high and nearly one-third of patients were hospitalized, 4- to 5-fold more than among the comparison group. Predictors of symptoms included young age, female sex, smoking, and experiencing symptoms before RYGB surgery. Development of weight loss procedures with fewer subsequent symptoms should be a high priority.