Cost of surgeries for patients with morbid obesity doubles

The cost of surgeries carried out in public hospitals for the treatment of morbid obesity was over €1 million last year, according to new figures.

A total of 112 morbidly obese patients underwent procedures to surgically limit their food intake and reduce their weight.

The reported cost, according to new figures, was €1,029,908, up 50% on the previous year.

The number of people undergoing such operations each year has more than doubled since 2010 as Ireland’s obesity crisis has worsened.

The World Health Organisation has warned Ireland is on course to become the fattest nation in Europe within the next decade.

A morbidly obese condition occurs where a patient has a body mass index (BMI) higher than 40.

During the past eight years, more than €5.2 million has been spent on bariatric surgery — the term covering various types of procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity for 637 patients in public hospitals.

The costly operations are designed to encourage weight loss by surgically altering the process of digestion or by reducing the size of a patient’s stomach.

Surgeries performed include gastric bypass procedures which redirect food away from some parts of the stomach and small intestine so the body absorbs less calories.

They also include gastric banding, in which a band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to reduce its capacity so a patient feels full after eating small amounts.

Bariatric procedures are carried out in two public hospitals, St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin and University Hospital Galway (UHG). Some services are also provided at South Infirmary in Cork.

The HSE said while a definite clinical need exists for those with chronic obesity, bariatric surgery is only required for a minority of obese patients (2% of the population).

The number of patients undergoing procedures has increased markedly. In 2009, 55 patients availed of the procedures at a cost of €450,606. It increased to 98 patients and a cost of €686,812 by 2015 and, last year, a total of 112, with the average cost of each surgery about €9,000.

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