Do Doctors Often Recommend Bariatric Surgery for Their Type 2 Diabetes Patients?

Bariatric surgery, vertical sleeve gastrectomyAlthough there is increasing evidence about the overall benefits of bariatric surgery, very little is actually known about doctors’ attitudes toward this surgery as a treatment option for overweight or obese patients who have type 2 diabetes.

In a study, researchers explored whether it’s common for doctors to recommend bariatric surgery for their patients with type 2 diabetes.

Their results appeared online in late January 2012 in the article “Physicians’ attitudes about referring their type 2 diabetes patients for bariatric surgery.” The article will appear in an edition of the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

The research team chose doctors from the Pennsylvania Integrated Clinical and Administrative Research Database and other databases to include in their study. Researchers identified doctors at an academic medical center (n=142) and community-based doctors (n=197) in the Philadelphia area who were likely to treat patients with type 2 diabetes based on their specialty.

The researchers sent each of the doctors a survey about their thoughts on the safety and effectiveness of bariatric surgery as a treatment option for both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Out of all the doctors indentified, 93 returned the survey; the combined response rate was 27.4%.

Researchers found that many doctors reported having positive thoughts about bariatric surgery as a treatment option for obesity (79.6%) and type 2 diabetes (67.4%). However, only 20.8% of the doctors said they would likely recommend randomized research trials for bariatric surgery for their patients with type 2 diabetes who have a body mass index of 30 to 34.9 kg/m2.

Overall, researchers found that doctors who treat patients with type 2 diabetes had positive impressions about bariatric surgery as a treatment option for both obesity and type 2 diabetes. But they found that only a few doctors were actually willing to refer their patients with type 2 diabetes and a body mass index of 30 to 34.9 kg/m2 to randomized research trials for bariatric surgery. Their hesitance to recommend patients for this surgery demonstrates an important obstacle to the successful completion of studies on the effectiveness of bariatric surgery for patients with type 2 diabetes and a body mass index less than 35 kg/m2.

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