Conference Coverage

Study finds Roux-en-Y safe, effective for older patients


Key clinical point: Older patients can safely lose weight after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass without excess mortality risk.

Major finding: At the end of follow-up, patients had lost a mean of 84% of their excess body weight, compared with 4.6% loss in controls. Survival was similar (90% of surgical patients and 93% of controls).

Data source: The retrospective study comprised 107 patients and 425 controls.

Disclosures: The investigator had no disclosures.



– Older obese patients shouldn’t be excluded from undergoing a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass based on concern for their long-term survival.

A 30-year review has determined that patients 60 years and older who had the surgery lost most of their excess body weight, and lived just as long as an age- and weight- matched cohort.

“We found a major weight loss benefit and no long-term differences in survival,” Taryn Hassinger, MD, said at the Association for Academic Surgery/Society of University Surgeons Academic Surgical Congress. “Our data support the use of this surgery in the elderly to achieve safe and effective weight loss.”

Dr Taryn Hassinger, a surgical resident at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Dr. Taryn Hassinger

Dr. Hassinger, a surgical resident at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, reviewed the records of 107 patients aged 60 years and older who underwent Roux-en-Y bypass at the university from 1985 to 2015. The small cohort size is evidence, she noted, that the surgery is not frequently offered to patients in this age group.

These subjects were matched for age and baseline weight to a group of 425 who did not have any bariatric surgery. Survival data in the univariate analysis came from Social Security death records.

The groups were similar at baseline, with a mean age of 62 and a mean body mass index of 47 kg/m2. About half of each group had obstructive sleep apnea. Other comorbidities were osteoarthritis (63%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (24%), type 2 diabetes (58%), gastroesophageal reflux (52%), congestive heart failure (8%), and hypertension (78%). About a quarter of each group smoked.

Patients were followed for up to 6 years. At the end of follow-up, those who had the surgery had lost a mean of 84% of their excess body weight. There was hardly any weight loss evident in the control group – a mean reduction of 4.6%. At the end of the follow-up period, 90% of surgical patients and 93% of the control patients were still alive.

The study provides reassuring data in an area that has not been well explored, Dr. Hassinger added. The only extant studies have compared older and younger cohorts. Peter Muscarella, MD, who moderated the session, agreed.

“This is very interesting, and good to know as we continue to expand the use of Roux-en-Y into different populations,” said Dr. Muscarella, a surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center, New York. “We have already expanded it into the pediatric population and now we are looking at its use in older individuals. But one question is, are there epidemiologic data on obesity in elderly patients? In my own practice, I just don’t see a lot of obese elderly patients. Is this really a problem in our country?”

A 2012 paper published by the National Center for Health Statistics addressed this issue. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2010, found that nearly one-third of U.S. adults aged 65 years and older were obese. Other key findings:

• Obesity prevalence was higher among those aged 65-74, compared with those aged 75 and over in both men and women.

• The prevalence of obesity in women aged 65-74 was higher than in women aged 75 and over in all racial and ethnic groups except non-Hispanic black women, where approximately one in two were obese among both age groups.

• Between 1999-2002 and 2007-2010, the prevalence of obesity among older men increased.

As the proportion of older adults increases in the U.S. population, surgeons are likely to see older patients who are candidates for bariatric surgery, Dr. Hassinger said.

“We believe that surgery may be an option for people who are in the 60-70 year range,” she said. “We do operate on those patients not infrequently.”

The investigator had no disclosures.

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