Inpatient bariatric surgeries to decline 15% in 10 years: Vizient

By 2034, the rate of inpatient bariatric surgeries will drop 15%, according to a June 10 Vizient report

Two leading factors are expected to drive this trend: More weight loss pharmaceuticals will enter the market and outpatient surgical volumes are projected to increase by 13%, according to analysts with the consulting firm. 

Inpatient cases are typically reserved for higher acuity cases, but with the boom of GLP-1 weight loss drugs — such as Wegovy and Zepbound — those patients increasingly are seeking nonsurgical options to shed weight. 

In early 2024, multiple bariatric surgeons told Becker's they were seeing fewer referrals and a "temporary lull" in operations. 

At Pittsburgh-based UPMC, the number of bariatric surgeries was growing, but there has been "a huge rise in the number of people seeking out nonsurgical obesity treatment, and in particular, the new class of medications," according to Anita Courcoulas, MD, the system's chief of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery. 

For patients, the biggest unknown is long-term efficacy. Gastric sleeve operations help patients lose 30% of their weight before leveling off at 20% to 25% after five to 10 years, Dr. Courcoulas said, and gastric bypass surgeries result in up to 38% initial weight loss before steadying at 30% weight loss. 

There is less long-term data on GLP-1s, but in a four-year study published in Nature Medicine, the average Wegovy user lost 10% of their body weight. 

Surgeries can have an upfront cost between $15,000 and $23,000, however, while GLP-1 injections have a list price of about $1,000 per month. 

Learn more about how GLP-1s are affecting healthcare here.

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