Coronavirus Chronicles — Bariatric Surgery and COVID-19

We know that, for the past couple of years, a hospital has been a particularly dangerous place to be. We know that the influx of coronavirus patients has caused a shortage of beds and a paucity of staff, and many patients who needed immediate intervention have been shunted aside for the sake of those affected with COVID who require the whole complicated and expensive life-support system.

We know that elective surgery has been discouraged, with people being advised to wait until this is all over. Mainly, there has been disagreement over whether bariatric surgery is an urgent procedure or whether, like a facelift, it can be put off until an optimal time. And yet surprisingly, in some locales anyway, bariatric surgery is thriving.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

Let’s turn back to September of 2020, when a government website explained the pros and cons:

There is a risk of infection transmission […] and the signs and symptoms of the disease make it difficult for patients to be followed up after surgery… [S]ome pulmonologists and bariatric surgeons believe that BS is an elective operation and it is better to postpone surgery.

Others believe that obesity is one of the risk factors for admission to the ICU and COVID-19 severity and mortality, so it is not an elective surgery and postponing metabolic surgery due to the complications of morbid obesity, comorbidities such as diabetes, the role of obesity, and these comorbidities on COVID-19 may increase risk of death and complications.

That piece concluded by noting that different scientific societies held different opinions, and by pleading insufficient data, which gave both physicians and patients an opportunity to exercise informed choice.

During the same month, published a piece titled “Bariatric surgery is booming,” citing information from a Cleveland Clinic study, which discovered that “patients with obesity who’ve had bariatric surgery were 25% less likely to require hospitalization after contracting Covid-19 when compared with obese patients who have not had the surgery.” Also, of the hospitalized patients in the study who had previously had bariatric surgery, none were sick enough to be in the ICU, and none died.

Inarguable demand

Concurrently, The Wall Street Journal reported that the demand for bariatric surgery, including gastric bypasses, laparoscopic bands, and gastric sleeves, rebounded much more quickly than other types of elective procedures. Journalist Robbie Whelan quoted Dr. John Morton of Yale Medical Center as saying, “The only two surgeries that have been Covid-proof have been cancer and bariatric,” he said.

In January of 2021, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Matthew Hutter explained how obesity and the coronavirus are in league with each other, and how bariatric surgery can prevent COVID-19 fatalities because…

Some data and articles indicate that individuals with obesity are more than 46% more likely to be COVID-19 positive. Their risk of ICU admission is increased almost twofold. They face a 50% higher risk for death.

He emphasized the slim possibility of anything going wrong, saying that “all treatments are just as safe during the pandemic as they were before.”

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Bariatric Surgery During the COVID-19 Pandemic—the Perspective of Physicians and Patients,”, 09/22/20
Source: “Bariatric surgery is booming, as obese patients worry about their Covid-19 risks,”, 09/30/20
Source: “Patients Seek Surgery to Combat Major Covid-19 Risk Factor: Obesity,”, 09/28/20
Source: “Bariatric Surgery in the Time of COVID-19,” 01/08/21
Images by Mike Licht and FolsomNatural/CC BY 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources