Research proves surgery beats medical therapy alone when treating diabetes

Chan Park

by Chan Park, MD

A recent research study confirmed what bariatric surgeons have been saying for years: surgery is more effective than medical therapy alone when it comes to treating diabetes.* In a study of morbidly obese individuals with diabetes, researchers compared intensive medical therapy alone versus bariatric surgery to see which treatment had the greatest impact on diabetes. Over a 3-year study period, patients who received bariatric surgery enjoyed significantly better outcomes versus those who received intensive medical therapy. In fact, most patients who received medical therapy alone had worse hemoglobin A1c levels (a marker of long term blood sugar control) and required higher doses of medications as the study progressed, while a number of surgery patients were able to stop taking diabetes medications within days of the operation.

Bariatric surgery (commonly referred to as weight loss surgery) is indicated for morbidly obese individuals who may also have associated medical illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, etc. Most patients who receive bariatric surgery enjoy dramatic improvements in all of these medical conditions in addition to their significant weight loss. The surgery is performed with a minimally invasive approach using tiny incisions and a long skinny camera called the laparoscope. The risk of complications is remarkably low, and recovery after surgery requires little more than an overnight stay in the hospital.

To find out more about the most effective treatment for your diabetes, or to learn more about bariatric surgery, the Duke Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery invites you to attend one of our free seminars. Visit to find an upcoming seminar and to register.

(*Schauer, et al. Bariatric surgery versus intensive medical therapy for diabetes: 3-year outcomes. NEJM 2014)

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