SEATTLE, August 6, 2018—People with diabetes and severe obesity who had bariatric surgery were half as likely to develop certain complications of diabetes than were those who had no surgery, according to a new study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine: “Microvascular Outcomes in Patients with Diabetes after Bariatric Surgery versus Usual-Care: A Matched Cohort Study.” The study was conducted by researchers at four health plans in the Health Care Systems Research Network: Kaiser Permanente in Washington, Northern California, and Southern California—and HealthPartners Institute in Minnesota.
More than 9 percent of adult Americans—about 30 million people—are estimated to have type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. The disease tends to worsen over time, with blood sugar levels rising along with the risks of developing large blood vessel (macrovascular) complications like heart attack and stroke, as well as small blood vessel (microvascular) complications affecting the nerves of the feet and hands (neuropathy), kidneys (nephropathy), and eyes (retinopathy).
“We had already shown that around half of people with diabetes and severe obesity who receive bariatric surgery experience a seven-year remission of their diabetes when their blood sugar levels are normal without medication,” said senior author David Arterburn, MD, MPH, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and an internist at the Washington Permanente Medical Group in Seattle.
“But to many people with diabetes, their blood sugar levels feel like an abstract concept,” said first author Rebecca O’Brien, MD, a bariatric internist at The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California. “What matters more to them is avoiding the harmful complications that can lead to limb pain and amputation, kidney failure, and blindness.”
This study included 3,949 Kaiser Permanente and 173 HealthPartners patients who received bariatric surgery. Their risk of all microvascular complications at five years after surgery was less than half that of a matched control group of more than 11,000 patients who received usual medical care that did not include surgery. All patients in the study had diabetes and severe obesity, defined as a BMI of at least 35 kg/m2. Receiving bariatric surgery was associated with decreases of two thirds in nerve disease, one half in kidney disease, and one third in eye disease, respectively.
“These results suggest that everyone with diabetes and severe obesity should have a conversation with their doctor about whether bariatric surgery is a reasonable treatment option for their them, weighing the risks and benefits,” Dr. Arterburn said.
In next steps, the researcher team is conducting randomized clinical trials and observational studies of the impact of bariatric surgery versus usual medical care for people with diabetes.
Drs. O’Brien and Arterburn’s coauthors are Eric Johnson, MS; Mary Kay Theis, MA, MS; and Jane Anau, BS, at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle; David P. Fisher, MD; and Stephen Sidney, MD, MPH, at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, Oakland; Karen J. Coleman, PhD, at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, Pasadena; Emily B. Schroeder, MD, PhD, at the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Denver; Patrick J. O’Connor, MD, MA, MPH, at HealthPartners Institute, Minneapolis; Sebastien Haneuse, PhD, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; and Andy Bogart, MS, at the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica.
A National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) award (#5R01DK092317-04) funded this study.
Diabetes is an active area of research at Kaiser Permanente, with more than 840 articles published since 2007. An overview of diabetes research can be found at: https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/research-briefs
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Senior Collaborative Biostatistician
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute
KPWHRI’s Dr. David Arterburn and Dr. Rebecca O’Brien, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, talk about results from their recent study.
Watch video. (YouTube, 1:48)