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Original Investigation
July 2016

Association of Patient Age at Gastric Bypass Surgery With Long-term All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Exercise Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  • 2Division of Cardiovascular Genetics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
  • 3LiVe Well Center–Salt Lake Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • 4Division of Public Health, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
  • 5Nutrition Obesity Research Center, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • 6Rocky Mountain Associated Physicians Inc, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • 7Department of Genetic Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar, Doha
JAMA Surg. 2016;151(7):631-637. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.5501

Importance  Bariatric surgery is effective in reducing all-cause and cause-specific long-term mortality. Whether the long-term mortality benefit of surgery applies to all ages at which surgery is performed is not known.

Objective  To examine whether gastric bypass surgery is equally effective in reducing mortality in groups undergoing surgery at different ages.

Design, Setting, and Participants  All-cause and cause-specific mortality rates and hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated from a retrospective cohort within 4 categories defined by age at surgery: younger than 35 years, 35 through 44 years, 45 through 54 years, and 55 through 74 years. Mean follow-up was 7.2 years. Patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery seen at a private surgical practice from January 1, 1984, through December 31, 2002, were studied. Data analysis was performed from June 12, 2013, to September 6, 2015. A cohort of 7925 patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery and 7925 group-matched, severely obese individuals who did not undergo surgery were identified through driver license records. Matching criteria included year of surgery to year of driver license application, sex, 5-year age groups, and 3 body mass index categories.

Intervention  Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery.

Main Outcomes and Measures  All-cause and cause-specific mortality compared between those undergoing and not undergoing gastric bypass surgery using HRs.

Results  Among the 7925 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery, the mean (SD) age at surgery was 39.5 (10.5) years, and the mean (SD) presurgical body mass index was 45.3 (7.4). Compared with 7925 matched individuals not undergoing surgery, adjusted all-cause mortality after gastric bypass surgery was significantly lower for patients 35 through 44 years old (HR, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.38-0.77), 45 through 54 years old (HR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.30-0.62), and 55 through 74 years old (HR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.31-0.79; P < .003 for all) but was not lower for those younger than 35 years (HR, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.82-1.81; P = .34). The lack of mortality benefit in those undergoing gastric bypass surgery at ages younger than 35 years primarily derived from a significantly higher number of externally caused deaths (HR, 2.53; 95% CI, 1.27-5.07; P = .009), particularly among women (HR, 3.08; 95% CI, 1.4-6.7; P = .005). Patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery had a significantly lower age-related increase in mortality than severely obese individuals not undergoing surgery (P = .001).

Conclusions and Relevance  Gastric bypass surgery was associated with improved long-term survival for all patients undergoing surgery at ages older than 35 years, with externally caused deaths only elevated in younger women. Gastric bypass surgery is protective against mortality even for older patients and also reduces the age-related increase in mortality observed in severely obese individuals not undergoing surgery.