Weight loss surgery is riskier for men than women, with males five times more likely to die within 30 days of the procedure, a new study finds.
Moreover, men's odds of dying over the long run are almost three times higher, said researchers who looked at thousands of weight loss (bariatric) procedures in obese patients in Austria.
The reason? Compared to women, men who opt for weight loss surgery tend to be older and have more health problems, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the researchers noted.
"Surgical procedures are some of the most successful ways to help people with extreme obesity to lose weight, but they can come with complications," said study co-author Dr. Hannes Beiglbock, from the Medical University of Vienna, in Austria.
"Although the absolute risk of dying after bariatric surgery is low, the findings of our large nationwide study highlight a substantially increased mortality risk among men compared to women," Beiglbock said in a news release from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Women seem more willing to consider weight loss surgery earlier in life, whereas men tend to wait until they have more health problems, Beiglbock added.
For the study, the researchers looked at medical claims data from Austrian state insurance. In all, nearly 20,000 patients who had obesity surgery between January 2010 and December 2018 were included and followed for an average of five years.
Between January 2010 and April 2020, less than 2% of patients died. But, the death rates were nearly three times higher for men than women (0.64% versus 0.24%), the investigators found. Deaths were rare, but 30-day mortality was five times higher in men than in women (25 deaths, 0.5% versus 12 deaths, 0.1%).
Among those who died, cardiovascular diseases and psychiatric disorders were the most common conditions. Type 2 diabetes was more common in men than women who died (43% versus 33%), and cancers were more common in women than men (41% versus 30%), according to the report.
"The challenge now is to understand potential barriers for men to undergo bariatric surgery, and further research should be performed to explore if earlier surgical intervention in men could improve mortality outcomes," Beiglbock said.
The findings were scheduled for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.