Significant barriers are keeping adults affected by obesity (a) and physicians (b) from talking frankly about bariatric, or weight loss, surgery, a new survey sponsored by the Obesity Action Coalition and Ethicon Endo-Surgery shows.

The survey found that while four in five adults affected by obesity had discussed weight with their health care provider, (1) only one in 10 who meet the National Institutes of Health guidelines for bariatric surgery have had their doctor recommend it. (1) The survey was conducted online in March and April 2011 by Harris Interactive among 400 U.S. adults affected by obesity, 252 U.S. adults who have undergone bariatric surgery (1) and 495 physicians. (2)

Results indicate that the majority of patients (86%) who had surgery wish they'd had it sooner, (1) and half of physicians echo this sentiment, wishing they had suggested it sooner to some of their patients. (2)

"Healthcare professionals should be having detailed discussions with people suffering from obesity about all their treatment options, including weight-loss surgery," said Joe Nadglowski, President and Chief Executive Officer, Obesity Action Coalition. "The survey results indicate that doctors are not speaking to patients about their weight and the effects it can have on their health. Informed patients can proactively manage their health and improve their quality of life."

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and other national medical associations, bariatric surgery is the most effective therapy available for morbid obesity and can result in improvement or complete resolution of obesity comorbidities. (3)

The health care professionals surveyed tend to underestimate patients' willingness to discuss their weight and their receptiveness to discuss treatment options, such as bariatric surgery. Six in 10 physicians surveyed believe most individuals affected by obesity are too embarrassed to discuss their weight with a health care professional. (2) However, almost 3 in 4 patients who have had weight-loss surgery and more than 4 in 5 adults who haven't, reported they have not been too embarrassed, suggesting the conversation would be welcomed. (1) Further, of those bariatric surgery patients whose health care provider suggested surgery, 9 in 10 (92%) felt positive feelings (i.e., excited, relieved, happy) as a result of their suggestion. (1)

Fear of bariatric surgery leads to prolonged research, delaying action

The top perceived drawback of bariatric surgery for individuals affected by obesity is the misplaced fear that it is dangerous (59%). (1) Physicians share this concern, with eight of 10 reporting fear of surgery complications as one of the biggest barriers. (2)

"It is important to stress that while there are risks involved - as with any surgical procedure - bariatric surgery is considered a safe option," said Dr. Christopher Still, Director of the Geisinger Obesity Institute, Medical Director, Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, and OAC Board Member.(c) "In fact, when performed at a Center of Excellence, bariatric surgery is as safe or safer than many commonly performed procedures, such as gall bladder removal or hip replacement." (4,5,6)

Patients who have had bariatric surgery spent a vast amount of time researching it, researching online for an average of three years before making the decision to have surgery. (1) They spent on average eight hours per week searching for information - translating to an average of 1,211 (d) hours. (1) While there are many factors to consider before having surgery, this prolonged period of independent research could delay conversations which most of those surveyed wish would come sooner. Further, the majority of patients who have undergone weight loss surgery believe that their lives have changed for the better, (1) evidenced by the fact that three-quarters cite excellent or good health. (1)

Survey Methodology

This bariatric surgery study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Ethicon Endo-Surgery and the Obesity Action Coalition between March 15 April 6, 2011 among 400 U.S. adults age 18+, affected by obesity and 252 U.S. adults who reported undergoing bariatric surgery at some point in the past. (1) The bariatric surgery study also surveyed 495 physicians practicing in the U.S. -- 241 Primary Care Physicians and 254 OB/GYNs. (2) A full methodology, including weighting variables, is available.


(1) "Bariatric Surgery Study: Patient Data Summary Sheet." Harris Interactive Inc. April 2011.

(2) "Bariatric Surgery Study: Physician Data Summary Sheet." Harris Interactive Inc. April 2011.

(3) Buchwald, H. 2004 ASMBS Consensus Conference Statement. "Bariatric surgery for morbid obesity: Health implications for patients, health professionals, and third party payers." Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases: 1 (2005) 371 - 381.

(4) Dolan et al. The National Mortality Burden and Significant Factors Associated with Open and Lap Chole: 1997-2006. Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery 2009: 13; 2292-2301.

(5) DeMaria et al. Baseline data from American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence Using the Bariatric Outcomes Longitudinal Database. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases 2010: 6; 347-355.

(6) Lie et al. Early postoperative mortality after 67,548 total hip replacements. Acta Orthop Scand 2002; 73 (4): 392 - 399

Source: Ethicon Endo-Surgery