Appropriateness criteria for bariatric surgery: beyond the NIH guidelines

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Aug;17(8):1521-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.78. Epub 2009 Apr 2.


Careful selection of bariatric patients is critical for successful outcomes. In 1991, the NIH first established patient selection guidelines; however, some surgeons operate on individuals outside of these criteria, i.e., extreme age groups. We developed appropriateness criteria for the spectrum of patient characteristics including age, BMI, and severity of eight obesity-related comorbidities. Candidate criteria were developed using combinations of patient characteristics including BMI: > or =40 kg/m(2), 35-39, 32-34, 30-31, <30; age: 12-18, 19-55, 56-64, 65+ years old; and comorbidities: prediabetes, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, sleep apnea, venous stasis disease, chronic joint pain, and gastroesophageal reflux (plus severity level). Criteria were formally validated on their appropriateness of whether the benefits of surgery clearly outweighed the risks, by an expert panel using the RAND/UCLA modified Delphi method. Nearly all comorbidity severity criteria for patients with BMI > or =40 kg/m(2) or BMI = 35-39 kg/m(2) in intermediate age groups were found to be appropriate for surgery. In contrast, patients in the extreme age categories were considered appropriate surgical candidates under fewer conditions, primarily the more severe comorbidities, such as diabetes and hypertension. For patients with a BMI of 32-34, only the most severe category of diabetes (Hgb A1c >9, on maximal medical therapy), is an appropriate criterion for those aged 19-64, whereas many mild to moderate severity comorbidity categories are "inappropriate." There is overwhelming agreement among the panelists that the current evidence does not support performing bariatric surgery in lower BMI individuals (BMI <32). This is the first development of appropriateness criteria for bariatric surgery that includes severity categories of comorbidities. Only for the most severe degrees of comorbidities were adolescent and elderly patients deemed appropriate for surgery. Patient selection for bariatric procedures should include consideration of both patient age and comorbidity severity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Bariatric Surgery / methods*
  • Bariatric Surgery / standards*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Risk
  • United States