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Bariatric Surgery Leads to Less Improvement in Black Patients

Key clinical point: Black patients who underwent bariatric surgery suffered more overall complications and reported a lower quality of life than white patients.

Major finding: The rate of overall complications was higher in black patients (628, 8.8%) than in white patients (481, 6.8%; adjusted odds ratio, 1.33; 95% confidence interval, 1.17-1.51; P = .02).

Study details: A matched cohort study of 14,210 patients, half black and half white, who underwent a primary bariatric operation in Michigan between June 2006 and January 2017.

Disclosures: The study was funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan/Blue Care Network. Dr. Wood reported no conflicts of interest. Three of his coauthors reported receiving salary support from Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan/Blue Care Network for their work with the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative, and one other coauthor reported receiving an honorarium for being the collaborative’s executive committee chair.


Wood MH et al. JAMA Surg. 2019 Mar 6. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2019.0029.


The well-documented disparities between black and white patients after bariatric surgery are brought back to the forefront via to this study from Wood et al., according to Brian Hodgens, MD, and Kenric M. Murayama, MD, of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu.

Some of the findings hint at the cultural differences that permeate the time before and after a surgery like this: In particular, they highlighted how black patients were more likely to report good or very good quality of life before surgery but less likely after. This could be related to a “difference in perceptions of obesity by black patients,” where they are more hesitant to pursue the surgery than their white counterparts, Dr. Hodgens and Dr. Murayama wrote.

More work is needed, they added, but “this study and others like it can better equip practicing bariatric surgeons to educate themselves and patients on expectations before and after bariatric surgery.”

These comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial ( JAMA Surg. 2019 Mar 6. doi: 1 0.1001/jamasurg.2019.0067 ). Dr. Murayama reported receiving personal fees from Medtronic outside the submitted work.