Weight-Loss Surgery Linked to Rise in Fracture Risk

SATURDAY June 4, 2011 -- The risk of fractures after weight-loss surgery may be even higher than previously thought, a new study suggests.

Prior research has shown that people who undergo surgery to lose weight, such as gastric bypass, have an increased risk for bone fractures. One study, for example, showed a 1.8-fold increased risk of fracture compared to the general population.

But further analysis showed the risk was actually closer to 2.3 times greater, according to the study to be presented Saturday at the Endocrine's Society's annual meeting in Boston.

Researchers noted the odds of breaking the feet or hands are even higher -- about three times higher than normal.

"A negative effect on bone health that may increase the risk of fractures is an important consideration for people considering bariatric surgery and those who have undergone bariatric surgery," said study author Kelly Nakamura, medical student at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., in a news release.

In following 258 patients who had bariatric surgery, researchers found that 79 of them had 132 fractures over the course of nine years. On average, the first break happened about six years after surgery. The study noted patients who got more physical activity before surgery had a lower risk of fracture than those who were more sedentary.

The study's authors pointed out the increased risk of bone fracture does not necessarily coincide with a greater risk for developing osteoporosis, the age-related bone-thinning disease.

As a result, they said, drugs used to treat osteoporosis may not be appropriate for these patients. The researchers concluded additional studies are needed to not only explain the link between weight loss surgery and fractures but also to determine the best way to prevent these breaks from happening in the first place.

"Clinicians may need to consider measures to optimize bone health and reduce fracture risk after bariatric surgery, such as fall prevention and optimizing calcium and vitamin D nutrition," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. Kurt Kennel, assistant professor of medicine in the endocrinology division at Mayo Clinic, in the news release.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has more information on the benefits of bariatric surgery.

Posted: June 2011


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