People who are obese should not have to lose weight before they can have surgery, a study suggests.
Surgeons often refuse to operate on patients who are significantly overweight because of fears they are more likely to suffer complications.
Patients are sometimes told to go away, lose weight and come back a few months later.
But a study by doctors in Switzerland suggests this practice is unjustified.
Dr Pierre-Alain Clavien and colleagues at Zurich’s University Hospital examined the cases of 6,300 patients who had undergone non-emergency operations.
More than one in eight of these patients was obese. A small number were severely obese.
The doctors found that, generally, the obese patients did not suffer any more complications than other patients.
A small number suffered more wound infections but this was not considered to be significant.
Dr Clavien said the findings refuted surgeons’ claims that obese patients are more likely to suffer complications after surgery.
Writing in the journal The Lancet, he said: “Obesity alone is not a risk factor for postoperative complications.
“The regressive attitude towards general surgery in obese patients is no longer justified.”
Dr Ian Campbell, chairman of the UK’s National Obesity Forum, said: “Surgeons will now have to consider how they deal with obese patients.
“This study seems to reject their claims that obese patients suffer more complications after surgery.”
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.