COVID-19 triggers new bariatric/metabolic surgery guidance


“Pandemic forces us to do what was long overdue”

The document confirms that bariatric/metabolic surgery should remain suspended during the most intense phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and only resume once overall restrictions on nonessential surgeries are lifted.

Exceptions are limited to emergency endoscopic interventions for complications of prior surgery, such as hemorrhage or leaks.

A section offers guidance for pharmacologic and other nonsurgical options to mitigate harm from delaying the procedures including use of drugs that promote weight loss, such as glucagonlike peptide-1 receptor agonists and/or sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors.

Once less-urgent surgeries are allowed to resume, a prioritization scheme addresses which patients should receive “expedited access” (risk of harm if delayed beyond 90 days) versus “standard access” (unlikely to deteriorate within 6 months) within three indication categories: “diabetes (metabolic) surgery,” “obesity (bariatric) surgery,” or “adjuvant bariatric and metabolic surgery.”

Examples of patients who would qualify for “expedited” access in the “diabetes surgery” category include those with an A1c of 8% or greater despite use of two or more oral medications or insulin use, those with a history of cardiovascular disease, and/or those with stage 3-4 chronic kidney disease.

For the “obesity surgery” group, priority patients include those with a BMI of 60 kg/m2 or greater or with severe obesity hypoventilation syndrome or severe sleep apnea.

And for the adjuvant category, those requiring weight loss to allow for other treatments, such as organ transplants, would be expedited.

Individuals with less-severe obesity or chronic conditions could have their surgeries put off until a later date.

The panel also recommends that even though keyhole surgery involves aerosol-generating techniques that could increase the risk for coronavirus infection, laparoscopic approaches are still preferred over open procedures because they carry lower risks for complications and result in shorter hospital stays, thereby lowering infection risk.

Appropriate personal protective equipment is, of course, advised for use by clinicians.

Kahan said of the document: “I think it’s a very sensible piece where they’re thinking through things that haven’t really needed to be thought through all that much. That’s partly with respect to COVID-19, but even beyond that I think this will be a valuable platform going forward.”

Indeed, Rubino said, “The pandemic forces us to do what was long overdue.”

Rubino has reported being on advisory boards for GI Dynamics, Keyron, and Novo Nordisk, has reported receiving consulting fees and research grants from Ethicon Endo-Surgery and Medtronic. Kahan has reported no relevant financial relationships.

This article first appeared on


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