Background: Little is known about the level of knowledge and comfort with bariatric surgery among family practice physicians.
Methods: Surveys were sent to all family practitioners in Connecticut querying the practice type and knowledge of bariatric surgery. The results were analyzed for the prevalence of opinion.
Results: Of 620 surveys sent out, 129 (21%) were completed. Of the 129 respondents, 73% were men, aged 31-79 years, and 92% were board certified, with an average of 19 years' experience. The average body mass index of respondents was 26 kg/m2 (range 16-40). Only 4% of respondents had a body mass index >30 kg/m2. Physicians reported a patient obesity rate of 43%. Of the 129 respondents, 88% believed obesity was difficult to control with diet and exercise alone. Only 6% thought obesity was best controlled surgically. Also, 85% of respondents had referred a patient for gastric bypass, although only 57% were comfortable explaining the procedure. The most common reason for refusal to refer was fear of complications and death. Additionally, 55% correctly listed a body mass index of 40 kg/m2 as qualifying for bariatric surgery without comorbidities; 48% identified the mortality rate of surgery as <1%, with 4% of respondents reporting >10%; and 84% were familiar with gastric bypass, 66% with LapBand, 33% with vertical banded gastroplasty, and 5% with duodenal switch. The respondents believed that nausea was the most common side effect, followed by anemia and fatigue. Finally, 53% believed bowel obstruction was common.
Conclusions: The results of our study have shown that misconceptions about bariatric surgery exist in the family practice community despite the increasing frequency of these procedures. Educational programs need to be designed to assist family practitioners in treating and referring obese patients.