General Practitioner's Knowledge about Bariatric Surgery Is Associated with Referral Practice to Bariatric Surgery Centers

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 24;18(19):10055. doi: 10.3390/ijerph181910055.


(1) Background: Patients seeking treatment for obesity and related diseases often contact general practitioners (GPs) first. The aim of this study was to evaluate GPs' knowledge about weight loss surgery (WLS) and potential stereotypes towards obese patients. (2) Methods: For this prospective cohort study, 204 GPs in the region of the bariatric surgery center at the University Hospital Aachen were included. The participants filled out a questionnaire comprising general treatment of obese patients, stigmatization towards obese patients (1-5 points) as well as knowledge regarding WLS (1-5 points). (3) Results: The mean age of the GPs was 54 years; 41% were female. Mean score for self-reported knowledge was 3.6 points out of 5. For stigma-related items, the mean score was 3.3 points out of 5. A total of 60% of the participants recognized bariatric surgery as being useful. Knowledge about bariatric surgery significantly correlated with the number of referrals to bariatric surgery centers (p < 0.001). No significant correlation was found between stigma and referral to surgery (p = 0.057). (4) Conclusions: The more GPs subjectively know about bariatric surgery, the more often they refer patients to bariatric surgery specialists-regardless of potentially present stereotypes. Therefore, GPs should be well informed about indications and opportunities of WLS.

Keywords: bariatric surgery; general practitioners; obesity; referral practice; stigmatization; weight loss surgery.