Can Weight Loss Surgery Be Bad to the Bones?
June 23, 2009
Boonton, NJ (RPRN) 6/23/2009
-- Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have recently reported that patients that undergo procedures to treat obesity by modification of the gastrointestinal tract, or bariatric surgery, may be more predisposed toward experiencing broken bones, especially in their hands and feet. The study is based on a review of nearly one hundred surgical cases at the clinic spanning twenty-one years and was recently presented at the Endocrinology Society Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Of the ninety-seven patients in the study, eighty-six were women, and their average age was forty-four. Ninety percent of the patients had the most common type of weight loss surgery—gastric bypass—with the others having either vertical banded gastroplasty (also called gastric band surgery) or biliopancreatic diversion. The average length of follow-up was seven years. After bariatric surgery, twenty-one patients suffered one or more fractures, for a total of thirty-one fractures.
According to bone expert, Warren Levy, PhD, CEO of Unigene Laboratories, “There is a considerable body of evidence that links weight and osteoporosis. We have known for many years that individuals with smaller frames are at greater risk for osteoporosis. One possible interpretation is that greater weight promotes greater bone density due to the added strain on the skeleton and the resulting need for more effective bone repair.”
Compared with the fracture rate expected in an age- and sex-matched population in southeastern Minnesota, the patients who underwent bariatric surgery were 1.8 times more likely to have a first fracture at any site of the body. Fractures were especially common in the hands and feet, with the risk of hand fracture being more than three times greater than average, and foot fracture risk nearly four times greater.
“We also know that reduced availability of calcium, supplied through food or mineral supplementation, can contribute to reduced bone density,” explains Dr. Levy. “Therefore, it is possible that the combination of reducing the surface area of the GI tract available for nutrient absorption and reducing weight could help to explain the observation.”
Continues Dr. Levy, “More work needs to be done to test these concepts and explain this observation.” Dr. Levy’s team is developing osteoporosis medications to prevent bone loss and promote bone growth, along with a surgical procedure, called Site-Directed Bone Growth (SDBG), which may help prevent and treat bone fractures. The SDBG technology, jointly invented in collaboration with Dr. Agnès Vignery at the Yale School of Medicine, is designed to facilitate and accelerate bone growth at precisely targeted locations in the body using a simple surgical procedure that can be performed on an outpatient basis with minimal invasiveness.
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