Resolution of Fibromyalgia Following Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

| August 10, 2007 | 0 Comments

by Michael J. Boros, MD; Mohamed H. Elgamal, MD; and Alan A. Saber, MD, MS, FACS

Dr. Boros is Chief Surgical Resident, Dr. Elgamal is Surgical Resident, and Dr. Saber is Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Bariatric Surgery, Associate Professor of Surgery—All with Michigan State University, Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


Fibromyalgia is a clinical syndrome characterized by chronic fatigue, widespread musculoskeletal pain, multiple tender points, skin sensitivity, sleep disturbance, and muscle stiffness. In the United States, 3 to 5 percent suffer from this debilitating disorder.[1,2] Treatment of this disorder is a challenge. We herein present a morbidly obese patient with long-standing fibromyalgia that dramatically improved following weight loss after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (LRYGBP). To our knowledge, there is no previously reported data on the effect of bariatric surgery on fibromyalgia.


A 38-year-old morbidly obese woman, who weighed 232 pounds and had a body mass index (BMI) of 38.6Kg/m2, had a significant history of fibromyalgia for 13 years. She is also suffers from multiple obesity-related comorbidities, including hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux, obstructive sleep apnea, arthritis, and depression. Her daily medications for fibromyalgia included prednisone 5mg, pyridostigmine 120mg, and mycophenolate mofetil 2500mg. In addition, she received human immune globulin at five-week intervals for persistent weakness in the upper extremities, double vision, and difficulty to chew.

For the last five years, numerous attempts of dietary and medical treatment for obesity have failed. Due to her obesity, exercise was very difficult to achieve. Physical examination revealed 18 out of 18 positive point of tender. After extensive preoperative workup, she underwent a LRYGBP with a 100cm alimentary limb and a 50cm biliopancreatic limb. The postoperative period was uneventful. At one-year follow-up, she lost 73 pounds and her BMI is now 26.7Kg/m2.This was associated with resolution of her long-standing fibromyalgia as indicated by amelioration of her 18 points of tenderness down to 6. Her need for medications to suppress fibromyalgia-related symptoms has markedly decreased (prednisone 1mg daily and mycophenolate mofetil 750mg daily). Her exercise tolerance has dramatically improved. This was also accompanied by resolution of her comorbidities.


The American College of Rheumatology criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia include history of widespread pain that has been present for at least three months.[3] The pain must be distributed through both sides of the body and both upper and lower parts of the body. Additionally, pain should be found in 11 out of 18 tender points on digital palpation (Tables 1 and 2). It is 10 times more common in women. However, fibromyalgia is seen in both sexes, all age groups, and all ethnicities.[4]

Symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include cognitive difficulties with attention and memory, obesity, allergies, series of regional pains, including noncardiac chest pain, dyspepsia, headache, abdominal cramping (irritable bowel syndrome), temporomandibular pain, and chronic pelvic pain, syncope, shortness of breath, sleep apnea, and urinary frequency and urgency.[5] Fibromyalgia has a significant association with the psychological and psychiatric condition of the patient.[6]

There is no known cure for fibromyalgia; the current treatment strategy is chiefly symptomatic.[7] The main aspect of patient management is good doctor-patient relationship and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy in order to eliminate stress and develop positive pain beliefs and coping strategies.[8] Pharmacologic treatment of fibromyalgia includes the use of anxiolytic/hypnotics, skeletal muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.[9]

Twenty-four percent of fibromyalgia patients have a body mass index above 30.[10] Weight loss through diet and exercise has been proposed as a method to improve symptoms of fibromyalgia. Loss of five percent of body weight has been associated with mild improvement of fibromyalgia symptoms.[11] Bariatric surgery has been found to improve the musculoskeletal complaints of obese patients.[12] In general, physical exercise becomes remarkably easier after bariatric surgery with subsequent improvement of the musculoskeletal condition and the general health condition of the patient. Bariatric surgery is known to improve many of the comorbidities associated with fibromyalgia, including depression, musculoskeletal pain, and sleep disturbance (Tables 1 and 2).


In conclusion, fibromyalgia, as with many other obesity-related comorbidities, could significantly improve or completely resolve after bariatric surgery with marked improvement of quality of life.


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Category: Case Report, Past Articles

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