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A longitudinal analysis of wait times for bariatric surgery in a publicly funded, regionalized bariatric care system

Doumouras AG, Albacete S, Mann A, Gmora S, Anvari M, Hong D. Obes Surg. 2020; 30(3):961-8. Epub 2019 Nov 8. DOI:

Background — Bariatric surgery is proven to be the most effective strategy for management of obesity and its related comorbidities. However, in Canada, patients awaiting bariatric surgery can be subjected to prolonged wait times, thereby subjecting them to increased morbidity and mortality, as well as decreased psychosocial well-being.

Objective — To assess the factors associated with prolonged wait times for bariatric surgery within a publicly funded, provincial bariatric network.

Methods — This was a retrospective population-based study of all patients aged > 18 years who were referred for bariatric surgery from April 2009 to May 2015 using linked administrative databases to capture patient demographic data, socioeconomic variables, healthcare utilization, and institutional factors. The main outcome of interest was a wait time greater than 18 months. Multivariate logistic regression modeling was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results — A total of 18,854 patients underwent bariatric surgery from April 2009 to December 2016, of which 2407 patients experienced wait times of > 18 months. On average, yearly wait times have increased for patients receiving surgery with wait times of 10.98 months (SD 5.48) in 2010 and 13.09 (SD 6.69) in 2016 (p < 0.001). Increasing age (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.05–1.19, p = 0.0004), BMI (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.04–1.11, p < 0.001), and male gender (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.28–1.70, p < 0.001) were significantly associated with increased bariatric surgery wait times. Additionally, smoking status (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.09–1.97, p = 0.0118) and obesity-related comorbidities particularly diabetes (OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.14–1.44, p < 0.001) and heart failure (OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.43–2.07, p < 0.001) were correlated with prolonged wait times for surgery. Socioeconomic variables including disability (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.38–1.92, p < 0.001) and immigration status (OR 1.35, 95% 1.11–1.64, p = 0.003) were correlated with increased odds of longer wait times, as were regions with regionalized assessment and treatment centres (RATC) when referenced against centers of excellence (COEs) in number of days added with 20.45 (95% CI 13.20–27.70, p < 0.001).

Conclusion — Wait times for bariatric surgery in a publicly funded, regionalized bariatric program are influenced by certain patient characteristics, socioeconomic variables, and institutional factors. This warrants further intervention and study to help improve these inequities when encountering potentially vulnerable populations awaiting bariatric surgery.