Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 68–75 | Cite as

Sex, Race, and Consideration of Bariatric Surgery Among Primary Care Patients with Moderate to Severe Obesity

  • Christina C. WeeEmail author
  • Karen W. Huskey
  • Dragana Bolcic-Jankovic
  • Mary Ellen Colten
  • Roger B. Davis
  • MaryBeth Hamel
Original Research



Bariatric surgery is one of few obesity treatments to produce substantial weight loss but only a small proportion of medically-eligible patients, especially men and racial minorities, undergo bariatric surgery.


To describe primary care patients’ consideration of bariatric surgery, potential variation by sex and race, and factors that underlie any variation.


Telephone interview of 337 patients with a body mass index or BMI > 35 kg/m2 seen at four diverse primary care practices in Greater-Boston.


Patients’ consideration of bariatric surgery.


Of 325 patients who had heard of bariatric surgery, 34 % had seriously considered surgery. Men were less likely than women and African Americans were less likely than Caucasian patients to have considered surgery after adjustment for sociodemographics and BMI. Comorbid conditions did not explain sex and racial differences but racial differences dissipated after adjustment for quality of life (QOL), which tended to be higher among African American than Caucasian patients. Physician recommendation of bariatric surgery was independently associated with serious consideration for surgery [OR 4.95 (95 % CI 2.81–8.70)], but did not explain variation in consideration of surgery across sex and race. However, if recommended by their doctor, men were as willing and African American and Hispanic patients were more willing to consider bariatric surgery than their respective counterparts after adjustment. Nevertheless, only 20 % of patients reported being recommended bariatric surgery by their doctor and African Americans and men were less likely to receive this recommendation; racial differences in being recommended surgery were also largely explained by differences in QOL. High perceived risk to bariatric surgery was the most commonly cited barrier; financial concerns were uncommonly cited.


Single geographic region; examined consideration and not who eventually proceeded with bariatric surgery.


African Americans and men were less likely to have considered bariatric surgery and were less likely to have been recommended surgery by their doctors. Differences in how obesity affects QOL appear to account for some of these variations. High perceived risk rather than financial barrier was the major deterrent for patients.


obesity bariatric surgery race sex physician counseling 



The study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01DK073302, PI Wee). Dr. Wee is also supported by a NIH Midcareer Mentorship Award (K24DK087932). The funder had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. Ms. Huskey has full access to the data and takes responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of the data.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have any conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina C. Wee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karen W. Huskey
    • 1
  • Dragana Bolcic-Jankovic
    • 2
  • Mary Ellen Colten
    • 2
  • Roger B. Davis
    • 1
  • MaryBeth Hamel
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of MedicineBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Survey ResearchUniversity of MassachusettsBostonUSA

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