Weight Loss Surgery Improves Pain and Physical Function

According to a study titled, “Change in Pain and Physical Function Following Bariatric Surgery for Severe Obesity” published in JAMA, it found that a large percentage of patients with severe obesity that underwent bariatric surgery experienced improvement in pain, physical function and walking capacity over three years.

The study was designed to record and report changes in pain and physical function in the first three years following bariatric surgery and to identify factors associated with improvement. Up to date the authors had noted that variability and durability of improvements in pain and physical function following a gastric bypass or gastric band had not been well documented.

The study was conducted at ten hospitals between February 2005 and February 2009 and led by Dr Wendy C King from the University of Pittsburgh, along with her colleagues they examined changes in pain and physical function in three years after bariatric surgery.

There were 2,458 patients included in the study, 70% underwent the gastric bypass and 25% had the gastric band procedure. Among the primary findings through three years of follow up approximately 50-70 percent of adults experienced clinically significant improvements in perceived bodily pain and physical function and in objectively measured walking capacity. Approximately three-fourths of participants with severe knee and hip pain experienced improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms.

The study found that between year one and year three, rates of improvement significantly decreased for bodily pain and physical function but improvement rates for walk time, knee and hip pain, knee and hip function did not!

Indications that were associated with pre surgery to post surgery improvements at years one, two and three were:

  • Younger age
  • Male sex
  • Higher income
  • Lower BMI
  • Less depressive symptoms pre surgery
  • No diabetes
  • No swelling or ulcerations of the legs

This study’s large geographically diverse sample, inclusion of multiple validated measures of pain and physical function, longitudinal design and three year follow up make it one of the most informative studies following gastric bypass and gastric banding.

Reference: JAMA 2016;315(13):1362-1371.doi10.1001/jama2016.3010

Title: Change in Pain and Physical Function Following Bariatric Surgery for Severe Obesity

Authors: Wendy C King, Jia-Yuh Chen, Steven h Belle, Anita p Courcoulas, Gregory F Dakin, Katherine A Elder,David R Flum, Marcelo W Hinojosa, James E Mitchell, Walter J Pories, Bruce M Wolfe and Susan Z Yanovski