Emergency department encounters, hospital admissions, course of treatment, and follow-up care for behavioral health concerns in patients after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2021 May 15;S1550-7289(21)00247-1. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2021.05.014. Online ahead of print.


Background: The benefits of bariatric surgery are well-established, however, concerns surrounding postoperative psychiatric destabilization and alcohol misuse remain. Research has initiated the process of identifying risks associated with bariatric surgery, although less is known regarding when or why psychiatric hospitalizations occur postoperatively.

Objectives: The goal of the current study was to examine the incidence of, and contributing factors to, behavioral health-related emergency room (ER) encounters and hospitalization after bariatric surgery.

Setting: Integrated multispecialty health system with an accredited bariatric surgery program.

Methods: Retrospective review of patients who underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery and had been readmitted to the hospital or presented to the ER after bariatric surgery at least once for a behavioral-health related reason.

Results: Of 1449 patients, 93 had at least 1 psychiatric or substance use-related ER visit/hospitalization post-surgery and were included in the study; 53% had 1 ER/hospital encounter after bariatric surgery; 24% had 2 encounters, 11% had 3-4 encounters, and 10% of patients had ≥5 encounters. Across 267 postbariatric surgery encounters, 42.4% were due to alcohol-related problems. The index presentation for alcohol-related reasons occurred at a mean of 1942 days (approximately 5.3 yr; SD = 1217 d). Patients' index presentation for a psychiatric concern (41.3%) occurred at a mean of 1278 days (3.5 yr; SD = 1056 d) post-surgery.

Conclusion: A significant percentage of patients who present to the ER or hospital for behavioral health reasons after RYGB surgery had alcohol-related problems, long after their surgery. Psychologists working with bariatric surgery teams should prioritize ongoing assessment of and education on alcohol misuse in those seeking RYGB and in the long-term postoperative period.

Keywords: Alcohol use; Bariatric Surgery; Hospitalization; Obesity; Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.