Complication rates are relatively low for US bariatric surgery patients at 5.87% but vary widely from hospital to hospital, according to a new report released by Healthgrades. Available in different procedure types and approaches, bariatric surgery has been shown to reverse common complications of obesity, including type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and silent killers like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It can also improve quality of life and overall health, reduce future health care costs, and reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, and early death.

To help people considering weight-loss surgery better understand their options, Healthgrades analyzed the number of procedures, surgery charges by state, procedure types, and complication rates from bariatric surgeries performed at 478 hospitals across 19 states from 2008 through 2010. Findings are published in “Choosing Bariatric Surgery to Improve Overall Health: 2012 Healthgrades Trend Report,” which also identifies 108 hospitals that stand out as 5-star performers for bariatric surgery.

Among the key findings:

  • A total of 201,821 bariatric inpatient surgeries were performed during the 3 years analyzed.
  • 96.29% were covered by commercial or government insurance; 3.71% were paid for by patients.
  • Hospitals in California, New York, and Texas performed the most inpatient bariatric procedures. The fewest procedures were performed in Iowa, Utah, and Rhode Island, which collectively comprised less than 3%.

Complication rates varied significantly by hospital, but were generally the same across all procedure types:

  • From 2008 to2010, the type of procedure a patient underwent did not make the chance of complication more or less likely.
  • Patients were 72.26% less likely to experience in-hospital complications at 5-star hospitals than at 1-star hospitals.
  • 5,788 patients could have potentially avoided a major in-hospital complication if all hospitals performed at the level of 5-star hospitals.

Surgery charges varied widely by state and by quality of hospital:

  • California was the most expensive state for bariatric surgery, with an average charge of $57,280 per patient.
  • Conversely, Maryland was the least expensive state, with an average charge of $15,896.
  • Charges for a bariatric procedure at a 5-star hospital were $3,189 less on average than at a 1-star hospital.