Study shows benefit of bariatric surgery for alcohol abuse

Written by Alanna Petroff, CNN

It’s called a “disease of the liver,” but many people with the condition have little idea they have it, even though up to a third of all people die from their condition, according to one recent report.

In new research published in Liver Transplantation , new findings suggest that bariatric surgery can be effective in treating liver disease, with patients taking approximately one year off from consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, relative to those who do not have surgery.

Scientists from the University of Melbourne examined mortality data from Australian patients undergoing bariatric surgery between the years 2002 and 2015. The findings were based on data collected from a cohort of more than 50,000 bariatric surgery patients in the country.

The study found that for bariatric surgery patients, who consume significantly less alcohol, mortality from any cause reduced from five percent before bariatric surgery, to 0.5 percent afterwards. For non-bariatric surgery patients, which consume slightly more alcohol, mortality had increased from 5.4 percent before surgery, to 8.2 percent afterwards.

The problem is even worse among patients who undergo acid reflux surgery — a procedure to treat reflux disease by expunging or removing food from the esophagus and stomach — and those who have undergone pancreatic (excluding endoscopic) procedures.

Bariatric surgery is designed to prevent or eliminate certain health conditions, and can, in some cases, make a person healthier. But it can also cause a second, perhaps bigger health problem: drinking excessively. One study found that such people can die 1.3 times more frequently than other adults.

However, there are advantages to these procedures — especially the sort that can decrease drinking. In general, weight loss can lead to a sharp reduction in blood alcohol levels, reducing the risk of liver disease — and reducing cirrhosis, which is linked to liver cirrhosis.

Bariatric surgery can also reduce one’s risks of alcohol-related liver damage, such as bleeding or ulcers in the liver. It has also been linked to lower rates of the skin disorder non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, which affects more than 11 million Americans.

A heart rate-lowering procedure, surgery can treat both the scope of the disease, and the alcohol abuse that could cause it, according to health experts.

Most bariatric procedures cost between $6,000 and $11,000, with smaller ones costing more. (For comparison, it costs between $4,500 and $19,000 to quit drinking.)

Overall, the researchers say that bariatric surgery can help to decrease the risk of death related to the liver, though they warn against prematurely using this information to discourage people from participating in the surgery.

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