Bariatric Surgery Puts Patients at Risk for Alcohol Problems

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Because alcohol problems may not appear for several years, it is important that doctors routinely ask patients with a history of bariatric surgery about their alcohol consumption.

One in five patients who undergo one of the most popular weight-loss surgical procedures are likely to develop problems with alcohol, with symptoms sometimes not appearing until years after their surgery, according to one of the largest, longest-running studies of adults who got weight-loss surgery.

The finding—reported online today in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, the journal of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery—indicates that bariatric surgery patients should receive long-term clinical follow-up to monitor for and treat alcohol use disorder, which includes alcohol abuse and dependence.

“We knew there was an increase in the number of people experiencing problems with alcohol within the first two years of surgery, but we didn’t expect the number of affected patients to continue to grow throughout seven years of follow-up,” said lead author Wendy C. King, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. She and her team discovered that 20.8 percent of participants developed symptoms of alcohol use disorder within five years of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB). In contrast, only 11.3 percent of patients who underwent gastric banding reported problem alcohol use.

Starting in 2006, King and her colleagues followed more than 2,000 patients participating in the National Institutes of Health-funded Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 (LABS-2), a prospective observational study of patients undergoing weight-loss surgery at one of 10 hospitals across the United States. …

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