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Access to bariatric surgery among older patients in a publicly funded regionalized care system

Elnahas AI, Doumouras AG, Anvari M, Schlachta CM, McClure A, Alkhamesi NA, Hawel JD, Urbach DR. Surg Endosc. 2021; Jan 4 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-020-08212-0


Background — Bariatric surgery in older patients is safe and effective. Current guidelines do not endorse age limits for surgery; however, older patients may encounter difficulties with access given perceived risks. This study compares the adjusted probability of failing to receive bariatric surgery between older (≥ 60 years) and younger (< 60 years) patients referred to a publicly funded program.

Study Design — This is a retrospective cohort study of adult patients referred to a bariatric surgery program in Ontario from 2010–2016. Ontario health administrative databases and the Ontario Bariatric Registry were used for the analysis. The primary outcome was receipt of bariatric surgery within 3 years of referral. A multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to determine the adjusted effect of older age (≥ 60 years) on the probability of not receiving surgery. Sensitivity analysis was performed using only healthy patients.

Results — Among 19,510 patients referred to the program, 1,795 patients (9.2%) were ≥ 60 years old, of which 60% received bariatric surgery within 3 years compared to 90% in younger patients. The odds older patients do not receive surgery after adjustment were significantly higher compared to younger patients (OR 1.69 [1.52–1.88], P < .001). This effect persists even among a subgroup of older patients with a Charlson Comorbidity Index = 0 (OR 1.78 [1.56–2.04], P < .001).

Conclusions — Age alone, rather than comorbidities had a more significant effect on the access to bariatric surgery in older patients. Given the demonstrated benefits of bariatric surgery in older populations, ensuring equity in access to bariatric surgery should be encouraged. Future research is required to explore the underlying reasons why older patients who could benefit from bariatric surgery may not have the opportunity.

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