LGH psychologist to study bariatric surgery outcomes

19 Dec 2017

Predicting what outcomes people will have from lap band surgery could reduce the number of operations performed, save money and improve patient outcomes.

Launceston General Hospital psychologist Dr John Mercer hopes a study into bariatric surgery results will lead to an assessment and treatment matching process that will reduce poor outcomes.

“What we’ve noticed is some people respond super well and get great outcomes, and some people don’t get the outcomes you would have expected for them,” he said.

“So, this piece of research is really trying to nail down a new factor so we can predict better what outcomes people are going to have from bariatric surgery, and if they’re going to get poor outcomes, we can work out how to support them.

“If they’re just not going to do very well at all, we can offer something else that’s not surgical.”

The LGH allied health department is working with the surgical department and the University of Tasmania clinical school on the project.

They received a 2018 medical research grant of $39,823 from the Clifford Craig Foundation.

This will be the third in a series of studies into bariatric surgery to treat obesity that Dr Mercer has been involved in.

“If a person walks into a doctor’s office and they’re 160 kilos, naturally we think the problem is they’re 160 kilos, but from a psychological perspective, the problem is what got them to 160 kilos.

“Eating style is all about trying to identify consistent reliable patterns of eating that actually result in obesity as kind of like a secondary symptom.

“So it’s kind of re-situating the problem – it’s taking it back a step to the behavioural stuff and the emotional stuff that leads to obesity.”

The team is using a measurement tool called the Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire to assess patients before surgery.

If it turns out that the questionnaire can predict their outcomes prior to surgery, then it could be used as a reliable indicator.

“The potential really is important for the country, financially, and in human terms. But they’re not using this internationally either, so if we can find a reliable indicator, it could have some international implications as well, in terms of how people are assessing surgery internationally,” Dr Mercer said.

“We’re really grateful to Clifford Craig for giving us the opportunity to research something that could have national and international implications.”


Carly Dolan – The Examiner, Launceston