About 5% of the US population is morbidly obese. This disease remains largely refractory to diet and drug therapy, but generally responds well to bariatric surgery. To determine the impact of bariatric surgery on weight loss, operative mortality outcome, and 4 obesity comorbidities (diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea). Electronic literature search of MEDLINE, Current Contents, and the Cochrane Library databases plus manual reference checks of all articles on bariatric surgery published in the English language between 1990 and 2003. Two levels of screening were used on 2738 citations. A total of 136 fully extracted studies, which included 91 overlapping patient populations (kin studies), were included for a total of 22,094 patients. Nineteen percent of the patients were men and 72.6% were women, with a mean age of 39 years (range, 16-64 years). Sex was not reported for 1537 patients (8%). The baseline mean body mass index for 16 944 patients was 46.9 (range, 32.3-68.8). A random effects model was used in the meta-analysis. The mean (95% confidence interval) percentage of excess weight loss was 61.2% (58.1%-64.4%) for all patients; 47.5% (40.7%-54.2%) for patients who underwent gastric banding; 61.6% (56.7%-66.5%), gastric bypass; 68.2% (61.5%-74.8%), gastroplasty; and 70.1% (66.3%-73.9%), biliopancreatic diversion or duodenal switch. Operative mortality (< or =30 days) in the extracted studies was 0.1% for the purely restrictive procedures, 0.5% for gastric bypass, and 1.1% for biliopancreatic diversion or duodenal switch. Diabetes was completely resolved in 76.8% of patients and resolved or improved in 86.0%. Hyperlipidemia improved in 70% or more of patients. Hypertension was resolved in 61.7% of patients and resolved or improved in 78.5%. Obstructive sleep apnea was resolved in 85.7% of patients and was resolved or improved in 83.6% of patients. Effective weight loss was achieved in morbidly obese patients after undergoing bariatric surgery. A substantial majority of patients with diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea experienced complete resolution or improvement.