Bariatric Surgery in Medicare Patients: Examining Safety and Healthcare Utilization in the Disabled and Elderly

Ann Surg. 2022 Jul 1;276(1):133-139. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004526. Epub 2020 Nov 17.


Objective: To compare safety and healthcare utilization after sleeve gastrectomy versus Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in a national Medicare cohort.

Summary background data: Though bariatric surgery is increasing among Medicare beneficiaries, no long-term, national studies examining comparative effectiveness between procedures exist. Bariatric outcomes are needed for shared decision-making and coverage policy concerns identified by the cMS Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee.

Methods: Retrospective instrumental variable analysis of Medicare claims (2012-2017) for 30,105 bariatric surgery patients entitled due to disability or age. We examined clinical safety outcomes (mortality, complications, and reinterventions), healthcare utilization [Emergency Department (ED) visits, rehospitalizations, and expenditures], and heterogeneity of treatment effect. We compared all outcomes between sleeve and bypass for each entitlement group at 30 days, 1 year, and 3 years.

Results: Among the disabled (n = 21,595), sleeve was associated with lower 3-year mortality [2.1% vs 3.2%, absolute risk reduction (ARR) 95% confidence interval (CI): -2.2% to -0.03%], complications (22.2% vs 27.7%, ARR 95%CI: -8.5% to -2.6%), reinterventions (20.1% vs 27.7%, ARR 95%CI: -10.7% to -4.6%), ED utilization (71.6% vs 77.1%, ARR 95%CI: -8.5% to -2.4%), and rehospitalizations (47.4% vs 52.3%, ARR 95%Ci: -8.0% to -1.7%). Cumulative expenditures were $46,277 after sleeve and $48,211 after bypass (P = 0.22). Among the elderly (n = 8510), sleeve was associated with lower 3-year complications (20.1% vs 24.7%, ARR 95%CI: -7.6% to -1.7%), reinterventions (14.0% vs 21.9%, ARR 95%CI: -10.7% to -5.2%), ED utilization (51.7% vs 57.2%, ARR 95%CI: -9.1% to -1.9%), and rehospitalizations (41.8% vs 45.8%, ARR 95%Ci: -7.5% to -0.5%). Expenditures were $38,632 after sleeve and $39,270 after bypass (P = 0.60). Procedure treatment effect significantly differed by entitlement for mortality, revision, and paraesophageal hernia repair.

Conclusions: Bariatric surgery is safe, and healthcare utilization benefits of sleeve over bypass are preserved across both Medicare elderly and disabled subpopulations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bariatric Surgery* / adverse effects
  • Gastrectomy / methods
  • Gastric Bypass* / methods
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Obesity, Morbid* / surgery
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Weight Loss