The study found that 772 people aged 55 to 64 underwent gastric bypass, stomach stapling or some other weight loss surgery in 1998, and 15,086 members of that demographic had the same surgeries in 2004.
"Among the reasons for the extremely dramatic increases is that the mortality outcomes from obesity surgery have improved greatly," said the agency in a statement printed online. "The national death rate for patients hospitalized for bariatric surgery declined 78 percent, from 0.9 percent in 1998 to 0.2 percent in 2004."
The report reveals that "more Americans are turning to obesity surgery and that an increasing number of younger people are undergoing these procedures," said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
In 2004, more than 103,000 patients aged 18 to 54 had some sort of weight loss surgery, according to the study, as did 349 patients aged 12 to 17.
"As the rate of obesity continues to climb, the health care system needs to be prepared for continued escalation in the rate of this surgery and its potential complications," Clancy said.
The soaring popularity of the surgeries has not increased the cost, the study reports; in fact, the price has gone down slightly. Not including physician fees and adjusting for inflation, an obesity surgery patient could expect to pay an average of $10,970 for such procedures in 1998, while a 2004 patient's average bill would be closer to $10,395, said the report.