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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weight loss surgery escalates in WA

A new study has revealed an explosion in weight loss surgery procedures in Western Australia over the past two decades.

The study by the University of Western Australia's School of Population Health is published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

It found there were 20 times more bariatric procedures, such as gastric banding, performed in 2004 than in 1988.

Sixty-four-year-old Pamela Vigers was an acute diabetic who weighed 116 kilograms. She lost 40kg after surgery and says it has changed her life.

"I don't take insulin or any type of diabetic medication, the diabetes is totally under control because I can exercise now," she said.

Researchers say while the study focussed on WA, the increase is indicative of a national trend.

The study's co-author Fiona Smith says much of the rise can be attributed to the worsening obesity problem.

"Certainly we found that some of the rise in the surgery can be attributed to the increasing population prevalence of obesity," she said.

"There are other likely factors though - things like increasing publicity and awareness of the surgery."

Ms Smith says the research also found the surgery is safe.

"There was relatively few complications recorded and very little difference in survival outcomes between the bariatric surgery patients and the general population," she said.

Australian Medical Association national president Rosanna Capolingua says the surgery has improved over the past two decades.

"Certainly there have been improvements in this sort of surgery over that period of time," she said.

"Laparoscopic surgery is now available. It is safer, it is a more realistic option."

But Ms Capolingua says surgery should only be used as a last resort.

"It is an appropriate treatment after other methods of weight loss have failed and in certain groups, [for example] patients with a BMI over 35."

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