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The Pipeline

Will Weight Loss Procedures Really Become Less Reliant on Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is one of the fastest growing interventions in health care. While the overall volume of procedures performed each year is still relatively low, the obesity epidemic coupled with the increasing acceptance of more drastic measures of weight management have created a burgeoning market that many hospitals are coveting.

One of the major forces driving greater use of these procedures is the recognition of obesity as a  condition that carries great health risks. As a counterpoint to that, the risk of invasive surgical intervention has limited the pace of growth and population for which these procedures are used. Much of the recent innovation has centered around less invasive, often outpatient procedures that can provide effective weight loss resolution without requiring the most dramatic gastric bypass procedure, which is still largely considered to be the gold standard approach. Whether these involve laparoscopic, robotic, single port access, or even trans-oral approaches, there is a growing focus on minimizing surgical footprint and procedure risk.

Even less visible, however, is another parallel movement to develop entirely non-invasive and even new medical options to target the same endpoint.

A recent New York Times piece, entitled Hoping to Avoid the Knife, focuses on this newer tier of innovation and the potential impact it could have on the market for weight loss intervention. Most interesting within this article is the focus on a number of non-invasive options and devices that have actually recently failed to launch or get FDA approval. Overall, it's clear this is a growing market, whether the treatments for weight loss involve standard surgery, incision-less surgery, non-invasive obstruction of metabolism, or even medical management. The key takeaway from this article, however, is that even though there is a great focus on developing less disruptive means of treatment, the here and now is still largely reliant on surgery. It will be interesting to watch as these innovations continue to unfold, and the potential impact these treatments will have on the bariatric surgery market.