Background: This study was undertaken to describe bariatric surgeons in the United States today and to determine whether those who are members of a major bariatric surgery specialty society differ from nonmembers.
Methods: We performed a national survey of a 50% cross-sectional random sample of all general surgeons in the United States to determine how many performed bariatric procedures. Through record linkage, we identified which surgeons were members of the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons (ASBS). We used bivariate tests of association (Pearson's chi2, Fisher's exact test, and the Student t-test) to compare demographic, training, and surgical practice characteristics of ASBS members and nonmembers.
Results: Of the 2906 survey respondents, 359 (12%) were bariatric surgeons. We estimated response rates of 55% among bariatric surgeons and 27% among others; 46% (n = 163) of those performing bariatric procedures were ASBS members. Members were more likely to be board-certified in general surgery, to perform newer surgical techniques, and to have a higher procedural volume. The years of bariatric experience were similar in the two groups.
Conclusions: Continuing medical education opportunities afforded by specialty society membership allow surgeons to remain abreast of the most recent advances in bariatric surgery technique and effectively address the complex health and psychosocial issues associated with morbid obesity. However, we found that only about half of all surgeons performing bariatric procedures in the United States are ASBS members. Standardization in the form of mandatory involvement in education and training activities or even specialty board certification in bariatric surgery might be necessary to ensure bariatric surgery skills and qualifications across the United States.
((c)) 2006 American Society for Bariatric Surgery.