Abington Memorial Hospital's Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
Morbid Obesity-A Dramatically Increasing Epidemic
Morbid obesity is, after smoking, the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It is a very complex chronic disease that develops slowly and persists for a long time, often for life. It has several causes, including:
- Genetic predisposition
- Environmental factors
- Social economic factors
- Cultural influences
- Hormonal influences
- Digestive abnormalities
Obesity in the United States has increased dramatically during the past three decades. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 400,000 patients a year die as a result of morbid obesity and related medical problems. An estimated 64 million adults are morbidly obese. A quarter of all children under age 16 are overweight, and 15.5 percent of children under age 19 are morbidly obese. These children may have increased risks of developing serious diseases and the likelihood of a shorter life expectancy.
Effects of Morbid Obesity
This kind of obesity is called morbid-which refers to disease or diseases- because it is associated with progressive and serious, debilitating diseases or conditions that are related to obesity. Morbid obesity is a major contributor to:
- Coronary artery disease
- Osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints
- Respiratory problems, including sleep apnea
- Urinary incontinence
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Cancers, including breast, colon and prostate cancer
The organs and musculoskeletal structure of morbidly obese persons are all placed under significant stress, because they are forced to double their workload. They are essentially doing the physical work of two people because of all the excess weight they are supporting.
When Diet and Exercise Don't Work
Unfortunately, for morbidly obese people, conventional weight loss methods, including diet, behavioral modification, exercise and medications-in combination or by themselves-are ineffective. While up to 90 percent of morbidly obese patients lose weight as a result of any of the above programs, 95 percent of them will regain their weight and/or gain even more weight.
For most, weight loss surgery is the only answer.
Weight loss surgery for morbid obesity is the only proven treatment that has resulted in long-term maintenance of weight loss and the reduction of related diseases that seriously decrease a patient's lifespan. Signs of this include diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, stroke, pulmonary embolism and depression. The NIH considers morbid obesity an epidemic-one that can only be reduced significantly by surgical intervention. Weight loss surgery most often is minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery requires only small incisions and allows the surgeon to perform the surgery using tubes equipped with both magnified optics and surgical tools. It results in less postoperative incisional pain and a quicker recovery with favorable cosmetic results.