Doctors Want More Publicly-Funded Lap-Band Surgery In Australia To Help Obese People

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Increased access to publicly funded lap-band surgery for obese Australians has been supported by new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

A team led by Associate Professor Tania Markovic from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney analysed data from obese patients who underwent publicly-funded bariatric surgery between October 2009 and September 2013.

They measured postoperative weight loss, and markers to assess improvement of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Sixty-five patients lost a mean of 17% of their preoperative weight by 3 months post-surgery, 26% by 12 months and 29% by 24 months.

Their body mass index (BMI) decreased from a mean of 48.2 pre-surgery to 35.7 at 24 months. By 12 months, there was full resolution of diabetes in 50% of patients, hypertension in 55% and sleep apnoea in 63%, with further improvements at 24 months.

Since 1992, Medicare has reimbursed the cost of bariatric surgery in the private sector.

“As most surgery is carried out in private hospitals with large out-of-pocket expenses for those without private health insurance, a significant inequity in obesity management exists,” the doctors write.

“In Australia, an inverse relationship exists between high obesity prevalence and low socioeconomic status; incidence is almost double for areas indexed as the most disadvantaged.

“Paradoxically, this surgery is least accessible to those who are likely to be in the greatest need.”

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