Weight-Loss Surgery Has Long-Term Benefits for Pain,

While nearly two-thirds of participants said that joint pain and their overall state of health had interfered with their ability to do their jobs before surgery, that dropped to 43% seven years later.

“I was impressed by the durability of initial pre- to post-surgery improvements in pain, function and work productivity,” said King, who added that the declines between three and seven years were small, especially considering that participants getting older.

Overall, the findings add to the conviction that “the benefits of modern day bariatric surgical procedures — that is, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy — far outweigh the risks,” King said.

Lona Sandon, a program director in the School of Health Professions at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, reviewed the findings.

She said that the additional benefits highlighted in the study are well known to doctors, who typically point them out to potential patients, even when patients’ primary motivation for surgery may be weight loss rather than pain relief.

“Insurance does not approve surgery based on pain scales or movement capacity, as these are not considered medical diagnoses,” while obesity is, Sandon said.

“Insurance is also not good at paying for prevention. Therefore, weight gets the primary focus,” she said, leaving patients to regard any additional benefits of surgery as a “bonus” if and when they experience them.

“It is nice to see a long-term study showing these benefits last over time,” Sandon said. “Physically feeling better with less pain and greater ability to move can do a lot to improve mood and quality of life.”

The findings were published Sept. 14 in JAMA Network Open .

More information

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has more about the benefits of weight-loss surgery.

SOURCES: Wendy King, PhD, associate professor, epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, program director and associate professor, clinical nutrition, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; JAMA Network Open, Sept. 14, 2022