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The bariatric surgery study compared mortality rates for 850 obese veterans who had received the procedure at one of 12 VA bariatric surgery centers between 2000 and 2006. These veterans were considered to be “high-risk” due to older age and greater weight in comparison to more than 41,000 obese veterans who had not received bariatric surgery, but had used VA outpatient services. The study also compared mortality rates for 847 obese veterans who had received bariatric surgery and 847 matched obese veterans who had not received bariatric surgery. Patients were followed for nearly seven years.

“By evaluating one important treatment option for obesity, this study represents another significant advance in defining best care approaches for those who entrust their health to VA,” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.

“Significant weight loss results in improved disease control and quality of life for patients, so there are many reasons why patients like those in our study may still want to undergo bariatric surgery,” said Dr. Matthew Maciejewski, the study’s lead investigator and part of the Health Services Research and Development Center for Health Services Research in Durham, N.C. “Also, other studies, conducted on different patient populations, have found bariatric surgery to be associated with reduced mortality and have also suggested that survival benefits from surgery-induced weight loss may take longer than six years to become evident.”

Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA’s chief Research and Development officer, said VA considers all associated evidence in any policy decision, but notes this is just one study.

“It is by conducting leading-edge research studies such as this one on bariatric surgery, and evaluating the meaning in the context of all rigorous scientific evidence, that VA Research provides the foundation for optimal veterans’ health care,” he said.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email