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Obes Facts. 2012;5(2):254-69. doi: 10.1159/000338566. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Severe obesity: the neglected epidemic.

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Department of Surgery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA.


Severe obesity (SO) is increasing faster than obesity in adults and in children. Because it is associated with numerous comorbidities, SO accounts for more health care expenditures than any other medical condition. Furthermore, it is associated with poor pregnancy outcomes for mother, fetus, and infant and a high risk of offspring obesity carried into adulthood. Bariatric surgery is the treatment of choice for SO because nonoperative methods fail to provide medically significant durable weight loss and because it is both preventive and therapeutic. The number of operations has sharply increased globally, yet only a small fraction of eligible patients are referred for surgical treatment demonstrating the need for improved access, especially for those disproportionately affected by SO. The risks of surgery mandate careful postoperative long-term multidisciplinary follow-up care. Education is critical for truly informed consent and must continue postoperatively, especially for women with reproductive potential. Even so, surgical treatment of SO remains cost-effective compared to conventional nonoperative treatment, which also requires long-term care. Just as obesity affects all medical disciplines (from allergology and immunology to oncology, urology and women's health), so does postoperative management of bariatric surgery patients. We offer wide-ranging recommendations for policymakers and others to consider in addressing SO.

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