In Short Term, Weight-Loss Surgery Doesn't Raise Fracture Risk

But study found slightly higher risk several years after procedure

TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Obese people who undergo weight-loss surgery, such as gastric bypass or gastric band, are not at greater risk for broken bones in the first few years after their operation, according to a new study. Three to five years after this type of surgery, however, these patients may face an increased risk of fractures.

"It has been recognized that surgical treatment is the most effective route to weight loss for many with morbid obesity," Dr. Nicholas Harvey, senior lecturer at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton, in England, said in a school news release. "Overall, for the first few post-operative years, these results are reassuring for patients undergoing bariatric surgery, but do not exclude a more protracted adverse influence on skeletal health."

In previous studies, weight loss alone has been shown to reduce patients' bone density, the researchers said, and weight-loss surgery also has been linked to a loss of bone density.

For the new study, researchers compared rates of broken bones among people who had weight-loss surgery between 1987 and 2010 with similar people of the same age, sex and body-mass index who didn't have the surgery. Body-mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

The risk of broken bones was not much higher for patients who had weight-loss surgery in the three years after their operation. The risk inched upward from three to five years after the surgery, and patients with a more significant drop in their body-mass index had a slightly higher risk for fractures, the researchers noted.

"This is the first time that we have been able to investigate risk of fracture following bariatric surgery by comparing patients with nonsurgical controls," Cyrus Cooper, professor of rheumatology and director of the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, said in the news release. "The results suggest that, at least in the short term, such changes in bone density are unlikely to lead to increased fracture risk."

The study was published Aug. 7 in the British Medical Journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about weight-loss surgery.

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