Bariatric surgery use is largely governed worldwide by a 1991 National Institutes of Health consensus statement that advocates BMI as the primary operative criterion and restricts surgery to severely obese patients. These guidelines have been enormously valuable in standardising practice, thereby facilitating accumulation of a copious database of information regarding long-term surgical benefits and risks, from vast clinical experience and research. However, the National Institutes of Health recommendations had important limitations from the outset and are now gravely outdated. They do not account for remarkable advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques or the development of entirely new procedures. In the two decades since they were crafted, we have gained far greater understanding of the dramatic, weight-independent benefits of some operations on metabolic diseases, especially type 2 diabetes, and of the inadequacy of BMI as a primary criterion for surgical selection. Furthermore, there is now a substantial and rapidly burgeoning body of level-1 evidence from randomised trials comparing surgical versus non-surgical approaches to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases, including among only mildly obese or merely overweight patients. Herein, we present arguments to impel the development of new guidelines for the use of bariatric and so-called metabolic surgery to inform clinical practice and insurance compensation.
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