Background: Extreme obesity affects nearly 8% of Canadians, and is debilitating, costly and ultimately lethal. Bariatric surgery is currently the most effective treatment available; is associated with reductions in morbidity/mortality, improvements in quality of life; and appears cost-effective. However, current demand for surgery in Canada outstrips capacity by at least 1000-fold, causing exponential increases in already protracted, multi-year wait-times. The objectives and hypotheses of this study were as follows: 1. To serially assess the clinical, economic and humanistic outcomes in patients wait-listed for bariatric care over a 2-year period. We hypothesize deterioration in these outcomes over time; 2. To determine the clinical effectiveness and changes in quality of life associated with modern bariatric procedures compared with medically treated and wait-listed controls over 2 years. We hypothesize that surgery will markedly reduce weight, decrease the need for unplanned medical care, and increase quality of life; 3. To conduct a 3-year (1 year retrospective and 2 year prospective) economic assessment of bariatric surgery compared to medical and wait-listed controls from the societal, public payor, and health-care payor perspectives. We hypothesize that lower indirect, out of pocket and productivity costs will offset increased direct health-care costs resulting in lower total costs for bariatric surgery.
Methods/design: Population-based prospective cohort study of 500 consecutive, consenting adults, including 150 surgically treated patients, 200 medically treated patients and 150 wait-listed patients. Subjects will be enrolled from the Edmonton Weight Wise Regional Obesity Program (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), with prospective bi-annual follow-up for 2 years. Mixed methods data collection, linking primary data to provincial administrative databases will be employed. Major outcomes include generic, obesity-specific and preference-based quality of life assessment, patient satisfaction, patient utilities, anthropometric indices, cardiovascular risk factors, health care utilization and direct and indirect costs.
Discussion: The results will identify the spectrum of potential risks associated with protracted wait times for bariatric care and will quantify the economic, humanistic and clinical impact of surgery from the Canadian perspective. Such information is urgently needed by health-service providers and policy makers to better allocate use of finite resources. Furthermore, our findings should be widely-applicable to other publically-funded jurisdictions providing similar care to the extremely obese.
Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00850356.