The effectiveness and risks of bariatric surgery: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis, 2003-2012

JAMA Surg. 2014 Mar;149(3):275-87. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2013.3654.


Importance: The prevalence of obesity and outcomes of bariatric surgery are well established. However, analyses of the surgery impact have not been updated and comprehensively investigated since 2003.

Objective: To examine the effectiveness and risks of bariatric surgery using up-to-date, comprehensive data and appropriate meta-analytic techniques.

Data sources: Literature searches of Medline, Embase, Scopus, Current Contents, Cochrane Library, and between 2003 and 2012 were performed.

Study selection: Exclusion criteria included publication of abstracts only, case reports, letters, comments, or reviews; animal studies; languages other than English; duplicate studies; no surgical intervention; and no population of interest. Inclusion criteria were a report of surgical procedure performed and at least 1 outcome of interest resulting from the studied surgery was reported: comorbidities, mortality, complications, reoperations, or weight loss. Of the 25,060 initially identified articles, 24,023 studies met the exclusion criteria, and 259 met the inclusion criteria.

Data extraction and synthesis: A review protocol was followed throughout. Three reviewers independently reviewed studies, abstracted data, and resolved disagreements by consensus. Studies were evaluated for quality.

Main outcomes and measures: Mortality, complications, reoperations, weight loss, and remission of obesity-related diseases.

Results: A total of 164 studies were included (37 randomized clinical trials and 127 observational studies). Analyses included 161,756 patients with a mean age of 44.56 years and body mass index of 45.62. We conducted random-effects and fixed-effect meta-analyses and meta-regression. In randomized clinical trials, the mortality rate within 30 days was 0.08% (95% CI, 0.01%-0.24%); the mortality rate after 30 days was 0.31% (95% CI, 0.01%-0.75%). Body mass index loss at 5 years postsurgery was 12 to 17. The complication rate was 17% (95% CI, 11%-23%), and the reoperation rate was 7% (95% CI, 3%-12%). Gastric bypass was more effective in weight loss but associated with more complications. Adjustable gastric banding had lower mortality and complication rates; yet, the reoperation rate was higher and weight loss was less substantial than gastric bypass. Sleeve gastrectomy appeared to be more effective in weight loss than adjustable gastric banding and comparable with gastric bypass.

Conclusions and relevance: Bariatric surgery provides substantial and sustained effects on weight loss and ameliorates obesity-attributable comorbidities in the majority of bariatric patients, although risks of complication, reoperation, and death exist. Death rates were lower than those reported in previous meta-analyses.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bariatric Surgery* / adverse effects
  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reoperation / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Assessment
  • Weight Loss