But Robin Blackstone, MD, immediate past president of the American Association for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Medical Director of Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center, took the paper and its methodology apart, even suggesting "it was irresponsible for them to publish it."
For starters, she says, the researchers used claims data between 2002 and 2008, a period when many bariatric procedures were performed with riskier open surgical incisions rather than the current laparoscopic techniques. In fact, the original method of open gastric bypass, one of five types of bariatric procedures performed, accounted for more than one-third of the operations.
Additionally, she says, it's inappropriate to do such a cost analysis because similar studies aren't done for surgeries for other conditions, like heart disease or lung cancer.
"I think we all need to realize that for individual who are obese, having surgery makes a huge difference in their lives. I see patients with diabetes, on 20 different meds all with bad side-effects, constantly seeing the doctor, not productive at work, exhausted because of painful joints, who are having trouble being good partners or good parents. And to see all of that reversed and [to see] people becoming re-engaged is so valuable," Blackstone said.
"If this were lung cancer or heart disease, we wouldn't be having this conversation."