The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) declared metabolic and bariatric surgery “medically necessary and the best treatment for those with the life-threatening and life-limiting disease of severe obesity” and called for the safe and rapid resumption of procedures, which have been largely postponed along with other surgeries deemed elective amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new position statement entitled, “Safer Through Surgery,” published online in the journal SOARD, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery strongly rejects classifying metabolic and bariatric surgery as “elective” and prefers the use of the term “medically necessary time-sensitive surgery” or “medically necessary non-emergent surgery” to better characterize the effectiveness of the intervention and the progressive nature of the many diseases it treats including obesity, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.

[RELATED: Bariatric Surgery May Reduce OSA Risk in Severely Obese Adults]

“COVID-19 may be a factor for quite some time and the longer the treatment of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other related diseases are postponed, the greater the chance they will become worse,” says Matthew M. Hutter, MD, MPH, president of the ASMBS and professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, in a release. “Each state, doctor and patient must make a decision as to when conditions for metabolic and bariatric surgery are right, but the sooner it can be safely performed, the more quickly obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases can be reduced or resolved.”

The ASMBS recommends that the precise timing for surgery be carefully considered based on factors including an individual patient’s health status, local prevalence of COVID-19 and the availability of resources including hospital beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

The ASMBS statement concludes, “Before COVID-19 began, it was clear that patients with obesity were ‘safer through surgery’. In the era of COVID-19, ‘safer through surgery’ for patients with obesity may prove to be even more important than before.” Obesity has been identified as an independent risk factor for adverse outcomes including death among COVID-19 patients.

Obesity has been linked to more than 40 diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and at least 13 different types of cancer.