Safety of bariatric surgery in the elderly: results from the Dutch National Registry

Published:October 10, 2022DOI:



      The increased human life expectancy and prevalence of obesity lead to more elderly people with obesity. As the popularity of bariatric surgery continues to grow, more elderly persons apply for bariatric surgery. However, because of the potentially higher surgical risk in elderly patients, bariatric surgery has been performed in small numbers. Moreover, the literature so far has shown controversial results.


      To determine the safety of bariatric surgery in elderly patients in terms of 2-year morbidity and mortality.


      Dutch nationwide mandatory registry for bariatric surgery.


      A population-based retrospective cohort study. Elderly patients (aged ≥65 years) who received primary bariatric surgery between January 2015 and January 2020 were compared with the general bariatric surgical population (aged 18–65 years).


      Of 49,553 patients, 838 elderly patients (1.7%) were included. An intraoperative complication was registered in 1.2% of the elderly patients and 1.1% of the nonelderly patients (P = .814). A severe short-term complication (≤30 days) was registered in 38 elderly patients (4.5%) and 1071 nonelderly patients (2.2%) (P < .001). The short-term mortality rates were .2% and .1%, respectively (P = .173). Bleeding was the most reported short-term complication. Significantly more nonelderly patients had a follow-up visit; 560 elderly patients (66.8%) versus 34,975 nonelderly patients (71.8%) (P = .002). The severe midterm complication rate (>30 days to ≤2 years) was significantly higher in nonelderly patients (3.7% versus 1.6%; P = .008).


      Bariatric surgery in elderly patients is safe in terms of perioperative outcome, mortality, and midterm complication rate. However, elderly patients experienced twice as many severe short-term complications. Bariatric surgery in elderly patients should be recommended on a case-by-case basis.


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