Monday, June 29, 2009

New study finds gastric bypass surgery not more risky for senior citizens than young

Dallas, TX

About 26% of seniors 65 and older in U.S. are obese, nearly 40% are overweight, putting them at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
Morbidly obese seniors, age 65 and over, who had laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery lost nearly 76 percent of their excess weight after two years and had low complication rates and short hospital stays comparable to younger surgical patients, according to a new study presented today at the 26th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

“Bariatric surgery in the older population is underutilized because of a misperception that old age alone puts patients at higher risk for complications and mortality,” said Joseph Kuhn, MD, co-author and director of General Surgical Research at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

“We found seniors can benefit just as much as younger people from bariatric surgery without taking on additional risk.”

In one of the largest series of laparoscopic gastric bypass surgeries performed on elderly patients, researchers from Baylor University Medical Center analyzed a prospective database of 100 patients over age 65 and compared safety and outcomes to a younger population.

All patients had laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery between January 2005 and July 2008.

Prior to surgery, older patients demonstrated higher operative risk profiles compared to their younger counterparts in relation to -
● sleep apnea (45% vs. 34%),
● Type 2 diabetes (65% vs. 33%) and
● hypertension (81% vs. 57%).

Older patients ranged in age from 65 to 77 with an average BMI of 45, and younger patients ranged in age from 18 to 64 with an average BMI of 47.

Post-operative excess body weight loss (EWL) and complication rates were comparable in both groups.

At 12 and 24 months, both lost nearly the same amount of weight -- patients over age 65 showed 75.9 percent EWL after one year and 75.5 percent after two years; patients under 65 showed 77.8 percent EWL after one year and 79.2 percent after two years.

Neither group reported any deaths in the two-year follow-up period.

Post-operative complications were -
● low: bleeding (>65 1% v. < 65 1.3%),
● pulmonary infections (>65 3% v. <65 1.3%),
● cardiac (>65 2% vs. <65 0.36%) and
● wound infections (>65 1% v. <65 1.7%).

Due to the age and overall health status of the older group, researchers noted it was particularly interesting to also find length of hospital stays (1.9 vs.1.3 days) and 30 day readmissions rates (6% vs. 7.4%) to be so comparable.

About 26 percent of people 65 and older in the U.S. are obese and another nearly 40 percent are overweight, putting them at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Since 1990, the prevalence of obesity has increased more than 50 percent in the elderly.

“The population is getting older and unfortunately more obese, so we will see a corresponding increase in the number of patients over 65 who are eligible for bariatric surgery and surgery needs to be an option for them,” said Christopher Willkomm, MD, study co-investigator from Baylor University Medical Center.

People who are morbidly obese are generally 100 or more pounds overweight, have a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI of 35 or more with an obesity-related disease, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or sleep apnea.

According to the ASMBS, more than 15 million Americans are considered morbidly obese and in 2008 an estimated 220,000 people had some form of bariatric surgery. The most common methods of bariatric surgery are laparoscopic gastric bypass and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB).

The ASMBS is the largest organization for bariatric surgeons in the world. It is a non-profit organization that works to advance the art and science of bariatric surgery and is committed to educating medical professionals and the lay public about bariatric surgery as an option for the treatment of morbid obesity, as well as the associated risks and benefits.

It encourages its members to investigate and discover new advances in bariatric surgery, while maintaining a steady exchange of experiences and ideas that may lead to improved surgical outcomes for morbidly obese patients. For more information about the ASMBS, visit

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Studies underway to determine why obesity surgery thins bones

from Red Orbit
Experts say melting fat from obesity surgery somehow thins bones and even suggest that patients who undergo these procedures might have twice the average person's risk for a fracture, and are more likely to break a hand or foot, The Associated Press reported.

Further research is now under way to see if The Mayo Clinic's finding is significant. But specialists say uncovering long-term side effects from bariatric surgery and how to counter them takes on new urgency as more and more overweight people are electing to try it.

Dr. Shonni Joy Silverberg of Columbia University told last week's annual meeting of The Endocrine Society that these procedures are now being sold as a panacea.

"It is of heightened importance to find the answers to these questions," he said.

And perhaps the only positive thing you'll ever hear a doctor say about too much fat is that obesity actually is considered protective against bone-weakening osteoporosis.

Mayo bone-metabolism expert Dr. Jackie Clowes said overweight people are starting out better than most of us when it comes to staving off osteoporosis.

Therefore, researchers are working towards answering whether those who undergo the procedures really end up with worse bones, or just go through a transition period as their bones adjust to their new body size.

In the United States, some 15 million people are classified as extremely obese (100 pounds or more overweight). With rampant diabetes and other health problems, surgery is fast becoming the preferred treatment.

Options include stomach stapling called gastric bypass to less invasive stomach banding procedures, where patients tend to lose between 15 percent and 25 percent of their original weight — dramatically improving diabetes symptoms.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery shows that more than 1.2 million U.S. patients have undergone the surgery in the past decade, 220,000 in the last year alone.

Now large National Institutes of Health studies on both adults and teens are underway to find more data on how patients fare many years after the surgeries.

However, doctors know that radical weight loss can speed bone turnover until the breakdown of old bone outpaces the formation of new bone.

A year after gastric bypass, adults' hip density drops as much as 10 percent, raising concern about a common fracture site of old age, according to more recent studies.

And while almost half of peak bone mass develops during adolescence, more research is needed to determine if teen bones react similarly.

The Mayo team is comparing the medical records of nearly 300 adults who've had bariatric surgery with similarly aged Minnesotans who haven't, to see if such changes translate into fractures.

Mayo's Dr. Elizabeth Haglind told the endocrinology meeting that a quarter of the 142 surgery recipients studied so far experienced at least one fracture in the following years. That group had twice the average risk six years after the surgery.

Interestingly, the surgery recipients had three times the risk of hand and foot fractures than their Minnesota neighbors.

Dr. Scott Shikora, president of the bariatric surgeons group, said he was shocked at the numbers because he hasn't seen a significant fracture problem in his own practice.

Shikora estimates about half of surgery patients follow their doctor’s advice to take extra calcium and vitamin D, and other research suggests higher doses may be needed anyway as the obese tend to start out with vitamin D deficiency.

“Don't skip checkups, where doctors monitor bone health, and aggressively treat nutrient deficiencies,” Clowes advised.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No scars: New TOGA obesity surgery goes through mouth

Chicago, IL
Doctors are testing a new kind of obesity surgery without any cuts through the abdomen, snaking a tube as thick as a garden hose down the throat to snap staples into the stomach. The experimental, scar-free procedure creates a narrow passage that slows the food as it moves from the upper stomach into the lower stomach, helping patients feel full more quickly and eat less.

Doctors say preliminary results from about 200 U.S. patients and 100 in Europe look promising.

After about 18 months, obese European patients have lost an average of about 45 percent of their body weight, said Dr. Gregg Nishi, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He discussed the European and U.S. studies during a Chicago conference this week for digestive disease specialists.

The procedure is only being done in the studies, which recently ended enrollment. Makers of the device used in the operation plan to seek federal approval if the research continues to go as planned.

While the two studies are still under way and only brief details are being released, Nishi said results so far are slightly better than typical results from with conventional stomach stapling.

Risks include perforating the esophagus, as Nishi said happened to a patient at another center, but otherwise, he said, there have been no major complications.

Some study patients have lost weight after unknowingly undergoing fake procedures — sedation and the tube, but no stapling. Results comparing them with the real thing aren't yet available.

Liliana Gomez, an administrative coordinator at Cedars-Sinai, was among the first Americans to have the scarless obesity surgery last year, as a test case for the U.S. study. She had planned on more invasive conventional surgery until learning that doctors at her hospital were studying the scarless stapling technique.

"When I found out it was going to be oral, through your mouth, I was like, 'Wow, that's kind of different,'" she said.

Since her operation in August, Gomez has lost about 40 pounds and dropped from size 22 to size 16.

The 35-year-old mother of three has a long way to go — she's still obese according to body mass index standards. But Gomez says she has cut her meal portions by more than half and still feels full, and is optimistic she'll continue to lose weight.

The new method is part of a medical movement to perform surgery through body openings such as the nose, mouth and vagina instead of making cuts. The idea is to reduce chances of infection and pain, and speed recovery. With no scars, there are cosmetic advantages, too.

Gomez had considered a gastric bypass operation, a more complex kind of stomach stapling, but worried about risks from that surgery. It reduces the stomach to the size of a golf ball and reroutes the digestive tract.

Whether done through one large abdominal incision or several tiny ones, gastric bypass is far more invasive and increases chances for malnutrition because it repositions how the stomach attaches to the intestines to restrict calorie absorption.

Another popular weight-loss surgery option involves putting an adjustable band around the top part of the stomach to create a small pouch.

The experimental method Gomez had is the oral version of a different kind of stomach surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach with staples but doesn't reroute the digestive system.

Surgery is generally considered a last-resort treatment for obesity, which affects more than 15 million Americans. Still, demand is high. More than 200,000 Americans are expected to have conventional forms of obesity surgery this year, according to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.

Dr. Scott Shikora, the society's president, called the oral procedure exciting and innovative, but said, "It is too early for us to say this is going to be a breakthrough."

Shikora said many U.S. obesity surgeons prefer the rerouting surgery or flexible bands, and that it remains to be seen whether the oral method has the same drawbacks as more outmoded stapling procedures.

The U.S. study is taking place at 10 centers. Patients will be followed for at least one year, with final results expected in 2010. They are randomly selected to undergo either the operation or a sham procedure.

Nishi said of 25 patients enrolled at his hospital, 17 got the real treatment, with no complications.

"I'm very impressed with it," Nishi said. So far, it looks like "a viable alternative," he said.

Satiety Inc., a California company that created the medical devices used in the technique, is paying for the research. Nishi said he has no financial ties to the company.

At Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where the first U.S. procedure was done last summer, about 30 patients have undergone the treatment. Side effects have been minimal, including sore throats, nausea and some abdominal pain lasting less than a week, said Dr. J. Christopher Eagon. He said weight loss results from his center aren't yet available.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

New procedure for obesity surgery - enter through mouth, no scars

Denver, CO
A new kind of obesity surgery without any cuts in the abdomen is being tested in small experimental groups. In this surgery the stomach is stapled by means of a tube that has been put down the throat of the patient. Preliminary results from US and European studies look promising.

In the experimental procedure the stomach is stapled to create a narrow passage that slows the food down as it moves through the stomach. This helps the patients feel full after eating small amounts of food and as a result eat less. Stapling the stomach is not a new technique, but this procedure is unique as there are no scars.

About 300 patients have undergone this new procedure. If all goes well, the makers of the tube, which is as thick as a garden hose, plan to seek federal approval of the device. This procedure is part of a move by the medical community to perform surgeries through body openings instead of incisions. The goal is to reduce chances of infection, pain, and speed recovery as well. Obviously, with no scars there are cosmetic advantages as well.

Studies in the US and Europe are still underway, so only brief details are being released. According to Dr. Gregg Nishi, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, results so far are slightly better than typical results from conventional stomach stapling. In the European study, over the course of 18 months the patients have lost an average of 45 percent of their body weight. Final results from the US study, which is taking place at ten centers, are expected in 2010.

Demand for obesity surgery is high in the US with more than 15 million obese Americans. According to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery more than 200,000 Americans are expected to undergo conventional forms of obesity surgery this year. Existing procedures are far more invasive. Gastric bypass changes how the stomach attaches to the intestine which increases the chances for malnutrition while restricting calorie absorption. Another popular procedure involves putting an adjustable band around the top part of the stomach.

Dr. Scott Shikora, president of American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, called the oral procedure exciting and innovative, but said, "It is too early for us to say this is going to be a breakthrough."

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