Surge in patients undergoing surgery to treat obesity
The number of patients undergoing surgery to treat morbid obesity rose by more than half last year.
A total of 168 overweight patients had procedures to surgically limit their food intake and reduce their weight during 2018, some 56pc more than the previous year.
Almost €7.75m has been spent on surgery for morbid obesity over the past 10 years, with 913 patients availing of the procedures in public hospitals.
The spend on surgery for obesity rose by more than 40pc last year to nearly €1.5m.
The number of people undergoing obesity surgery each year has trebled since 2009.
The operations are designed to encourage weight loss by surgically altering the digestion process or by reducing the size of a patient's stomach in order to limit food intake.
The procedures, collectively known as bariatric surgery, include gastric bypass operations, which redirect food away from some parts of the stomach and small intestine so that the body absorbs fewer calories.
They also include gastric banding, in which a band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to reduce its capacity so that the patient feels full after eating small amounts.
Another intervention sees the insertion of a gastric balloon which is temporarily placed in the stomach and inflated.
By taking up space, they physically limit the volume of food that can be consumed.
Procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity are performed almost exclusively in two public hospitals: St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin, and University Hospital Galway (UHG). Some services are provided at the South Infirmary in Cork.
One in four adults in Ireland is now overweight or obese, and the WHO has predicted we will be the fattest in Europe within 10 years.
In 2009, 55 patients availed of bariatric surgery at a cost of €450,606. This had increased to 97 patients and a cost of €686,812 by 2013. In 2016, the cost soared to just over €1m as 112 patients underwent the surgery.
Figures released by the HSE show that each procedure cost an average of €8,600 last year. Patients who wish to avail of bariatric surgery must first successfully complete a weight-management programme.