People who have had bariatric surgery may have an increased risk of developing epilepsy, according to a study published in the September 28, 2022 online issue of Neurology®the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Bariatric surgery, which involves modifying your digestive system, has become a more common treatment for weight loss,” said study author Jorge G. Burneo, MD, MSPH, of Western University. in London, Canada, and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “Although bariatric surgery is an effective treatment for obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, our research has found that recipients of bariatric surgery are at high risk of epilepsy.”
Researchers reviewed medical records from Ontario, Canada, to identify people who had bariatric surgery over a six-year period. After excluding people with a history of seizures, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, or drug or alcohol abuse, they included 16,958 people who had bariatric surgery in the study. They were compared to 622,514 obese people who did not have bariatric surgery. Participants were followed for at least three years.
A total of 73 people, or 0.4%, of those who had bariatric surgery developed epilepsy, compared with 1,260 people, or 0.2%, of those who did not have the surgery. After adjusting for other factors that may affect the risk of epilepsy, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers found that the estimated rates of epilepsy were 50 per 100,000 person-years in people who have had bariatric surgery and 34 per 100,000 person-years for those who have not had bariatric surgery. Person-years represent both the number of people participating in the study and the time each person spends on the study.
People who had bariatric surgery had a 45% increased risk of developing epilepsy compared to people who had not had bariatric surgery. People who had a stroke after their bariatric surgery were 14 times more likely to develop epilepsy than those who did not have a stroke.
“When considering bariatric surgery, people should talk to their doctor about the benefits and risks,” Burneo said. “Although weight loss has many health benefits, our results suggest that epilepsy is a long-term risk of bariatric surgery for weight loss. Future research should study epilepsy as a potential long-term complication of bariatric surgery, exploring the possible effects of this procedure.”
A limitation of the study is that the researchers were unable to measure obesity status or body mass index (BMI) throughout the study and the researchers state that certain conditions related to obesity could affect the risk of epilepsy.
The study was supported by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Ministry of Long-Term Care and Western University.
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