Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gastric bypass surgery increases risk of kidney stones, study reports

Kidney stone risk increased by gastric bypass surgery

Dallas, TX
Patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery experience changes in their urine composition that increase their risk of developing kidney stones, research from UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators suggests.

A new study, published in the March issue of The Journal of Urology, found that some of these urinary changes place weight-loss surgery patients at higher risk for developing kidney stones than obese patients who do not undergo the procedure.

For the study, researchers collected urine samples from 38 study participants. There were 16 women and three men in each of two groups. One group had undergone Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery; the second group contained normal obese individuals. RYGB, which is one of the most commonly performed weight-loss procedures, involves the creation of a small gastric pouch and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine.

The researchers found that the excretion of a material called oxalate in urine was significantly greater in the participants who had the surgical procedure than those who did not (47 percent, compared with 10.5 percent, respectively). In addition, the amount of a chemical called citrate in the urine was low in many gastric bypass patients in comparison to the obese nonsurgical group (32 percent to 5 percent).

Oxalate is found in the majority of kidney stones, while citrate inhibits stone formation.

“Almost half of the patients who had undergone gastric bypass and did not have a history of kidney stones showed high urine oxalate and low urine citrate – factors that lead to kidney-stone formation,” said Dr. Naim Maalouf, assistant professor of internal medicine in the Charles and Jane Pak Center for Mineral Metabolism and Clinical Research and the study’s lead author.

The cause for stone formation after bariatric surgery is not entirely clear, but the study reinforces the message that weight-loss surgery patients and their physicians should be alert to the heightened risk, Dr. Maalouf said.

“These findings illustrate that the majority of patients are at risk for kidney-stone formation after RYGB,” Dr. Maalouf said. “This complication may not be well-recognized in part because it tends to occur months to years after the bypass surgery.”
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wife's cause of death after gastric bypass surgery still unknown to North Carolina man

North Carolina county official dies after gastric bypass surgery, cause unknown

Fayetteville, NC
A Bladen County commissioner died Saturday of complications from gastric bypass surgery.

Margaret Lewis-Moore, of Clarkton, worked in the Bladen County Schools Central Office as the child drop-out prevention coordinator. She was 55.

Her husband, Marion Moore, said the cause of death had not officially been determined, but Lewis-Moore had undergone gastric bypass surgery in Fayetteville on Tuesday.

She returned home Thursday, but soon fell ill, Marion Moore said. She died at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Lewis-Moore was in her third term on the Board of Commissioners. She was first elected in 2000.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some doctors worry about overuse of weight-loss surgery: Others excited about gastric bypass surgery for moderately obese

Kalamazoo, MI
As gastric bypass and other bariatric surgeries are becoming more popular for weight loss and as minimally invasive surgical techniques are developed, some health professionals worry that the procedures may be overused.

“I think it’s wrong to do it on people who are minimally overweight,” said Dr. Jerome Cooper.

Cooper is the medical director of the Medical Weight Loss Clinic, a Southfield-based business that has 34 locations in Michigan and northern Ohio, including one in the Kalamazoo area.

“Bariatric surgery is a last resort, as I see it,” said Cooper, who was trained as a bariatric physician but has not done bariatric surgery.

He was raising his concerns in response to a recent Los Angeles Times report saying that new, incisionless techniques that are now in human trials at major hospitals may end up broadening the use of bariatric surgery to people who are only moderately overweight or on the lower end of the obesity scale.

“I think 100 pounds overweight or more with co-morbidity (another health condition such as diabetes) is a good rule to follow,” Cooper said.

The clinics that Cooper oversees are devoted to medically supervised weight loss through diet, exercise and medication. “We do some referrals for bariatric surgery” when it’s appropriate, he said.

“Bariatric surgery does offer the best results of any weight-loss treatment available today,” Cooper said, “but it’s not without the possible recurrence of weight gain, and there are post-surgical issues” such as the risks of leakage, bowel obstruction and dumping syndrome, which is involuntary vomiting or defecation.

“The risks of bariatric surgery must be weighed against the risks of being morbidly obese (overweight by 100 pounds or more or with a body mass index of 40 or greater), diabetes, arthritic problems, heart problems, certain cancers,” Cooper said. “It’s appropriate for the right people.”

Divided opinions

Health professionals at major medical centers who were quoted in the L.A. Times report — and in a similar Chicago Tribune story — were about evenly divided on using bariatric surgery in those who are not extremely obese.

Some said the surgery is underused as a way to deal with Type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related health problems, while others said the surgery carries the risk of long-term complications and that diet changes, exercise and medication should be recommended instead for the overweight or moderately obese.

The L.A. Times noted that statistics from the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery show bariatric surgery rates have doubled in the United States in the past six years, with 220,000 of the procedures done in 2008.

Diabetes, though, is on the rise, too, and studies show bariatric surgery is achieving good results in controlling that disease in patients with BMIs between 30 and 35, said Dr. Stuart Verseman, who has been medical director of bariatric surgery at Borgess Medical Center since October 2005 and does bariatric surgery at both Borgess and Bronson Methodist Hospital.

“They’re finding a marked improvement in their diabetes after bariatric surgery and a decreased usage of medication,” Verseman said.

An example of someone with a BMI of 30 would be a person who is 5-foot-9 inches tall and weighs 203 pounds. That person would be 35 pounds above the normal weight range for that height, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While that example might not strike some people as a case of obesity, Verseman said that “even people with BMIs of 30 are considered clinically obese.”

Verseman, following National Institutes of Health guidelines, does bariatric surgery only on those with a body mass index of 35 or more and certain related medical conditions or 40 or more without those conditions.

But he said he finds it “very exciting to think about offering that to a larger population, especially with the number of diabetics increasing astronomically every year.”

Verseman is the only surgeon in Kalamazoo currently doing bariatric operations. Dr. Alan Saber, who had been the main physician doing bariatric surgery at Bronson, left in November and now works at Case Western Reserve University Hospitals, in Cleveland.

Verseman, like Cooper, said bariatric surgery should never be the first choice for weight loss. But he is much more open to the potential of its use in the moderately obese who have diabetes, high blood pressure or other weight-related conditions.

Krista Hampton, a registered dietitian who is Bronson’s bariatric coordinator, sees the value of bariatric surgery for the extremely obese, but she expressed reservations about using it in people who are overweight or moderately obese.

“Coming from my background, I would want someone to exhaust all other weight-management options first,” she said.

Surgery and support

Bariatric surgery is on the rise at Borgess and Bronson, as it is nationwide. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, there were 14 bariatric surgeries at Borgess. From July 2008 through June 2009, there were 187 at Borgess, and in the last six months of 2009 there were 110, according to Rebecca Blades, a registered nurse who leads the Borgess bariatric program.

Bronson, which started its bariatric program in 2007, did 47 surgeries that year, 99 in 2008 and 112 in 2009, said public-relations specialist Erin Smith.

Verseman said his bariatric surgeries have had a major-complications rate of 2 percent, while the national average is 3.5 percent.

Representatives of both hospitals emphasized that they carefully screen those interested in bariatric surgery and offer continued support to those who get the surgery, trying to help them avoid overeating and stay active.

Borgess, for example, offers support groups, both in person and online, and offers classes in active living, Blades said.

“None of these operations are cures,” Verseman said. “They’re tools to help patients. And it’s a team approach we take, involving a dietitian, a psychotherapist, the primary-care physician. Patients need to follow guidelines afterward to improve their medical conditions.”

“If you start grazing, over time you can get a lot of calories in even after surgery,” Verseman said.

But if people getting bariatric surgery have to learn to make dietary and behavioral changes and stick with those changes to lose weight, why not instead work closely with people to support new eating habits and more exercise without doing bariatric surgery?

“I wouldn’t have somebody undergo bariatric surgery who has never attempted anything else before,” Verseman said. “Almost every patient (who undergoes bariatric surgery) has completed numerous diets” but has not succeeded in losing enough weight to improve their medical condition, he said.

“You don’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to have gastric bypass surgery.’”

The surgery helps people feel full and therefore have less of an urge to eat, Verseman said. One type of surgery he does — a sleeve gastrectomy — takes out 75 percent of the stomach and gets rid of the hormone that causes hunger, he said.

Even without bariatric surgery, though, people can learn to ease feelings of intense hunger, Hampton said, by increasing the protein and fiber in their diets and decreasing the kinds of high-carbohydrate foods that cause blood sugar to spike and then drop.

She said some people who enter a weight-management program at Bronson with the idea of getting bariatric surgery decide not to have it once they learn to cook and eat differently, get more exercise and overcome some behavioral issues.

“We need to get back to the basics of how to cook and how to meal plan,” she said. “Convenience food is way too easy to get our hands on.”

Verseman expressed a similar sentiment but said he is glad he can help improve people’s lives through bariatric surgery.

“To see people get over medical conditions and get their lives back ... is really gratifying,” he said.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gastric band surgery can help extend lives of obese people, says study

New York, NY
A new study backs up the belief that bariatric surgery is beneficial for losing weight and extending the lives of obese men and women.

But the precise pluses of the procedure vary by individual and are influenced by many variables, including a patient’s age, weight and gender, according to the Guardian.

The research was carried out at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center.

In one type of bariatric surgery, a physician wraps a band around the patient’s stomach, reducing its size. Because they feel full faster, people eat less.

Over time, they shed weight, which helps to prevent heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes, according to The Guardian.

Bariatric surgery is typically given to people whose body mass index (BMI) is over 40.

But because any type of surgery comes with risk, including infection, other complications and even death, the study looked at potential positive outcomes versus the inherent danger of undergoing the knife.

Age was a significant variable, since younger patients undergoing surgery are less apt to die from surgery or develop complications.

Researchers found that for a 42-year-old woman with a body mass index of 45, weight-loss surgery could extend her life by up to 3 years.

A 44-year-old man with a BMI of 45, reaped slightly less dramatic results. He could expect to increase his life by 2.6 years after surgery.
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Friday, January 1, 2010

Study: Weight loss 6 months after gastric byass no different for patients who had mood and eating disorders pre-op

Storrs, CT
Researchers detail in 'Effect of mood and eating disorders on the short-term outcome of laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass,' new data in eating disorders. "We examined whether patients with a history of mood and eating disorders (MED) had less weight loss and poorer treatment compliance after laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (LRYGBP) than patients with a history of either mood (MD)or eating disorders (ED), or no history of mood or eating disorders (ND). Consecutive LRYGBP patients (n=196; 43.6 ±10.9 years; BMI 47.2 ±7.4 kg/m2; 83.2% female, 91.8% Caucasian) underwent a preoperative psychological evaluation," investigators in the United States report (see also Eating Disorders Therapy).

"At 6 months post-surgery, body mass index (BMI), % excess weight loss (%EWL), hospital readmissions, and adherence to behavioral recommendations were assessed. Of the patients, 10.2% had MED, 36.7% had ED only, 24.0% had MD only, and 29.1% of patients had ND. MED patients fared worse than all other groups in dietary violations (p=0.03), exercise habits (p=0.05), and readmission rates (p=0.06) but there were no group differences in either BMI change or %EWL," wrote A.A. Gorin and colleagues, University of Connecticut, Center for Health.

The researchers concluded: "MED patients are at-risk for poor treatment compliance following LRYGBP; however, they achieve similar weight losses 6 months postoperatively."

Gorin and colleagues published their study in Obesity Surgery (Effect of mood and eating disorders on the short-term outcome of laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obesity Surgery, 2009;19(12):1685-90).

For additional information, contact A.A. Gorin, University of Connecticut, Dept. of Psychology, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, Storrs, CT
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Britain’s "most obese teen" is slim after gastric bypass surgery, says would rather be dead

Selby, North Yorks, England
At 19 years of age, Malissa Jones of Selby, North Yorks, England, sees herself as the unhappiest woman alive, whose future is extremely bleak unless she somehow comes up with £20,000 required to undergo cosmetic surgery. At 16, Malissa, Britain’s fattest teen, underwent gastric bypass after doctors told her she only had months to live, and thus became the first person in the world to undergo the surgery. She is now telling Closer magazine she’d rather be dead than live her life as she is now.

Malissa knows that the surgery saved her life, especially since she had her first suspected heart attack at the tender age of 15. Doctors told her at the time that, although risky and not usually done on under-18s, the procedure was the only hope she had to live longer than a few more months. At the time, Jones was diagnosed with angina, had her internal organs compressed, could not move and breathed at night with the help of an oxygen tank. She weighed 34 stone (215 kg) and ate 15,000 calories a day (with the daily recommended intake being of 2,000).

Now, two years later, Malissa has lost 20 stone (127 kg) and her life expectancy is increased. Still, she is depressed and is on medication because she is constantly so ill she can hardly get out of the bed. She says she’s been left with so much excess skin from her weight loss that she truly wishes she had never had the surgery at all – anything, even death, is better than looking like this. She doesn’t have the money to undergo surgery to remove the saggy skin and the NHS will not pay for it.

“I know it sounds ungrateful, but I preferred my body when I was fat. At least it was firm and curvy, not droopy and saggy. I had nice firm arms – now the skin just hangs and I have to cover them up because they look so awful. The NHS won’t remove the skin and I’ll never manage to save £20,000 to have it done privately. The surgery might have saved my life, but I wish I’d never had it done,” Jones says for Closer.

There is tinge of regret though at not having tried to lose the weight the healthy way, with diet and exercise, and especially at having let her problems become so serious. “Although my heart’s healthier and life expectancy is normal, some days I’m too ill to get out of bed. […] I hope people read this and realize gastric surgery isn’t a miracle cure. I wish I’d lost the weight through exercise and healthy eating. I know this operation was life-saving, but the complications I’m suffering now might still kill me. The truth is I feel I’m no better off than I was before,” she says for the same magazine.
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Urologist's opinion: Gastric band placement for obesity is not associated with increased urinary risk of urolithiasis compared to gastric bypass surgery

Berkley, CA
As morbid obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent in our western society, the surgical options for management of this disorder are being more widely utilized. These procedures include Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric band surgery. It has been estimated that the number of bariatric surgeries performed has increased ten-fold in the past decade. It has been observed that in some patients undergoing bariatric surgery for obesity, new onset nephrolithiasis can develop.

These two studies very nicely show that patients at greatest risk are those with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in which the normal gut flow and absorption is interrupted. These patients typically have an elevation in their urinary oxalate and a significant reduction in their urinary volume. Interestingly, patients with gastric banding appear to have a more significant reduction in their urinary volumes compared to the Roux-en-Y group of patients. However, the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure results in a more significant hyperoxaluria and hypocitraturia.

Both of these studies note that due to the small numbers and the limited time of their study, they were unable to demonstrate that the increased urinary risk factors translated into an actual increased risk for renal stone development. However, it would seem prudent to counsel these patients even before they come to their surgical procedure with regards to dietary modifications to reduce their risk factors for renal stone development. These dietary modifications include maintaining an adequate fluid intake to potentiate a 2-liter urine output per day, 1,200 to 1,500 mg calcium citrate with Vitamin D and 500 mcg Vitamin B-12 and B-complex supplementation. Additional citrate supplementation may be important particularly in those patients with a prior history of stone disease.

Further clinical studies are still required to illustrate the effect of nutrition and pharmacologic therapy on the risk of stone development in patients undergoing bariatric surgery.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

A prospective study of risk factors for nephrolithiasis after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (Abstract)

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery has become an increasingly common form of weight management. Early retrospective reviews have suggested that new onset nephrolithiasis develops in some patients after undergoing Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. We present a prospective longitudinal study to assess risk factors for nephrolithiasis after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

A total of 45 morbidly obese patients scheduled to undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery were enrolled in this prospective study between November 2006 and November 2007. Exclusion criteria included history of nephrolithiasis or inflammatory bowel disease. Serum uric acid, parathyroid hormone, calcium, albumin, and creatinine and 24-hour urine collections were obtained within 6 months before Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, and at 6 to 12 months postoperatively. A Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to compare preoperative and postoperative serum laboratory values and 24-hour urine values. McNemar's test was used to determine if the percent of abnormal values underwent a statistically significant change after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. For both statistical methods a p value was calculated for the change in each variable with p <0.05 considered statistically significant. Statistically significant changes included increased urinary oxalate and calcium oxalate supersaturation, and decreased urinary citrate and total urinary volume postoperatively. A statistically significant percentage of patients exhibited decreased urinary calcium, while a statistically significant percentage of patients experienced increased urinary oxalate and calcium oxalate supersaturation. Our prospective study demonstrated multiple factors that increase the relative risk of nephrolithiasis after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. These changes may make stone formation after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass increasingly likely and pose an ongoing challenge in the realm of urology. Gastric Bypass Malpractice Lawsuit Attorneys

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gastric bypass surgery: Couple sticks together through thick and thin

Lehi, UT
A couple in Utah County went under the knife together on a weight loss journey in hopes of losing hundreds of pounds.

The couple is Mike and Lorena Downey. The two took their vows 26 years ago promising to love each other in good times or bad, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health and to see each other through thick and thin.

When they married, in 1983, Mike and Lorena had a combined total weight of just under 300 pounds, but this year they tipped the scales at almost 600 pounds.

“I look in the mirror, I’m not happy with who I see. When I got to 270 pounds it blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I was so close to 300 pounds,” said Lorena.

Although the Downeys were happily married with children, their weight slowly started to come between them.

“How could you look at your wife and say you’re not the woman I married, when you’re looking at yourself and saying you’re not the man she married,” said Mike.

The two knew something had to be done and began researching options. In a desperate effort to shed the weight they turned to gastric bypass surgery. After deciding that the surgery’s pros outweighed the cons they chose to do the surgery together.

They went to St. Mark’s hospital where Lorena had her surgery on October 7th and Mike had his one week later.

Gastric bypass surgery is growing more popular every day as America’s obesity epidemic tips the scales. The surgery has been known to save lives but there can also be life changing drawbacks.

Their journey consisted of three trips to the ER during the week of Mike’s surgery and complications for Lorena resulting in two additional surgeries.

Both are fine and after just five weeks the couple has lost nearly 100 pounds. They have been walking everyday and both say they’re feeling better and have more energy.
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

3 Years after gastric bypas surgery, man loses 259 pounds and competes in triathalons

St. Petersburg, FL
Three years ago, Chad Soileau was sitting in a roller coaster seat at Six Flags amusement park near Washington, D.C., when he was overcome with panic. He had waited in line for more than an hour for the four-minute ride on the Wild One, but when it came time to buckle up, the seat belt wouldn't fit.

"The attendant walked up and told me I was too big for the ride," recalled Soileau. "She yelled back to her co-workers, 'Bring the tool, we've got a large rider.' "

Five minutes seemed like an eternity as the crew struggled to extend the roller coaster's seat belt.

"Hundreds of people were watching," Soileau said. "It was the most humbling, humiliating experience of my life."

Afterward, Soileau stumbled off the ride and ran to the nearest restroom. "My stomach was in knots," he said. "I vomited for 10 minutes."

On Nov. 14, a very different Soileau will again face an audience — but this one will be cheering his remarkable achievements.

The Louisiana man will be among the 1,500 or so elite athletes who will gather on Clearwater Beach to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles in the Ironman World Championship 70.3. (The name comes from the combined distance of the three events, which is half the distance of the world famous Ironman World Championship held each October in Kona, Hawaii.)

"It has been a long road to get here," said Soileau, 37. "And I still have a long way to go."

Team 464

Despite the trauma of the roller coaster incident, it wasn't until a few months later that Soileau realized the full extent of his obesity.

"I was on the scale at the doctor's office when he asked if I knew how much I weighed," he said. "I figured about 350. He said no, 464."

Soileau couldn't believe he was off by 114 pounds. He made up his mind, then and there, that he would do something about his weight.

On March 22, 2006, he underwent gastric bypass surgery. "I call it my re-birthday," he said.

The surgery came with complications. He developed several blood clots and had to undergo three additional surgeries, including one to have his gallbladder removed and another to repair a twisted bowel and an internal hernia. But Soileau persevered.

Soileau was 34 when he started his weight-loss journey. Overcoming his longtime addiction to food was his first obstacle.

"I used to order double of everything . . . two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts," he said. "When I would go to the drive-through I would pretend there was somebody else in the car because I was ordering so much food."

Weight-loss surgery is no sure bet; plenty of people regain weight after the procedure. But after his surgery, Soileau found it easier to control his urges. (See related story, Page 12.)

"Physically I couldn't eat as much," he said.

The physical changes soon were followed by emotional ones. "After a while I stopped wanting the food,'' he said.

The victories piled up. One day, he discovered he could bend over to tie his shoes. "It was a huge accomplishment for me when I could get in my truck without my stomach hitting the steering wheel," he said.

Soileau set weight goals, which he published on his Web site,

"Weigh less than 400 pounds — DONE!''

"Weigh less than 350 pounds — DONE!''

He also kept track of his progress by his pants size: He went from a size 64 to a size 34.


As he recovered from the surgery and started to drop pounds, he began to exercise.

He started off small, walking back and forth to the stop sign a block from his house. Gradually, his walks got longer and longer. Eventually, he started running, then swimming, then biking.

"I came up with a list of goals for myself," he said. "One of them was to complete a triathlon."

To help him reach his goals, he kept a training log.

"At first it was just a mile, then 2 miles, then 3 miles," he said. "The whole time I dreamed about completing a marathon."

Soileau, who has a girlfriend, works as a Web site designer in New Orleans. He struggles to find time for the one to two hours of daily training a triathlon requires. As for his diet, he focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to help power his new physique.

The discipline paid off. In February 2008, Soileau finished the Mardis Gras Marathon in New Orleans with a time of 5 hours and 36 minutes.


Soileau has completed dozens of road races and triathlons. He was invited by the World Triathlon Corporation to be its guest at this year's event in Clearwater. Officials hope Soileau's story will inspire others to try the sport.

"It is an honor to be here," he said. "What other sport lets you share the course with the pros?"

But despite his success, Soileau doesn't feel as if he has won his battle against obesity. He won't feel victorious, he said, until he completes a full-distance Ironman.

"I will know I won when I step over the finish line and I hear the announcer yell, 'Chad Soileau, you are an IRONMAN!' "

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is gastric bypass surgery a diabetes fix?

Los Angeles, CA

Within days of various weight-loss surgeries, blood sugar levels become easier to manage -- or are normal.
The discovery came about by accident more than a decade ago: Weight-loss surgery often led to dramatic improvements in the control of Type 2 diabetes, often before patients had even left the hospital.

Today, evidence of the connection is so solid that some doctors say surgery should be considered as a treatment for diabetes, regardless of a person's weight or desire to lose weight.

"We thought diabetes was an incurable, progressive disease," says Dr. Walter J. Pories, a professor of surgery at East Carolina University and a leading researcher on weight-loss surgery. "It . . . is a major cause of amputations, renal failure and blindness. This operation takes about an hour, and two days in the hospital, and these people go off their diabetes medication. It's unbelievable."

As many as 86% of obese people with Type 2 diabetes find their diabetes is gone or much easier to control within days of having weight-loss surgery, according to a meta-analysis of 19 studies published earlier this year in the American Journal of Medicine (78% of patients with a remission of diabetes and 86.6% with remission or improvement). But experts still aren't sure why obesity surgery helps resolve Type 2 diabetes or how long the effect might last. And they disagree on how big a role surgery should take in treating the illness.

"We are going from seeing the results to understanding why it happens," said Dr. Santiago Horgan, director of the Center for the Treatment of Obesity at UC San Diego.

This much is clear: Patients who have weight-loss surgery begin to lose weight rapidly, which by itself improves Type 2 diabetes, allowing diabetics to more easily control their blood glucose levels. But something else appears to be occurring as well.

There is strong evidence that surgery -- especially gastric bypass surgery, which makes the stomach smaller and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine -- causes chemical changes in the intestine, says Dr. Jonathan Q. Purnell, director of the Bionutrition Unit at Oregon Health & Science University. The small intestine has been thought of simply as the place where digestion occurs.

But researchers now suspect it has other functions related to metabolism. Surgery somehow alters the secretion of hormones in the gut that play a role in appetite and help process sugar normally.

Multiple studies in humans and animals indicate that surgery triggers reductions in ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, and elevates levels of peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1, both of which act as appetite suppressants. Another theory is that surgery might alter the expression of genes that regulate glucose and fatty-acid metabolism.

"There are these known components that improve glucose metabolism," Purnell says. "But there are very likely other things happening as well."

Which procedure?

The effect on diabetes can depend on the type of weight-loss surgery that is performed, says Pories, past president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. The highest rates of diabetes remission are seen in people who have gastric bypass -- about 83%.

But diabetes also tends to resolve or improve in 50% to 80% of people who have lap-band surgery, in which a band is placed around the top of the stomach to make it smaller, he says. And there is some evidence that the effect occurs a newer type of weight-loss surgery called gastric sleeve, in which a portion of the stomach is removed so that it takes the shape of a tube or sleeve.

Evidence suggests the effect on diabetes can last for an extended period or even indefinitely, particularly if people don't regain a lot of weight.

"There is durability, but we also know that some people do get the disease back again," Purnell says. "Weight rebound is probably one factor. We also know that diabetes is a progressive disease. It may depend on how long you've been diagnosed with diabetes. If it's early on, I think the durability may be better."

It's not clear yet why people have different responses.

"There is some evidence that African Americans don't respond as well as Caucasians, and men don't respond as well as women," Pories says.

Despite the unknowns, the evidence that a majority of people experience long-term improvement in blood glucose control suggests the surgery could eventually play a greater role in the treatment of obese people with Type 2 diabetes. The majority of American adults with Type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Traditional medical guidelines, which insurers follow, state that weight-loss surgery should be restricted to patients with a body mass index of 35 or greater who have related health problems. But some diabetes and nutrition experts think those recommendations don't go far enough. Several studies are underway, or will soon begin, to examine the benefits of surgery in people with Type 2 diabetes and a BMI of less than 35.

"We may have a cure for diabetes," Santiago says. "So we need to ask how medical therapies and surgery can help each other in the treatment of diabetes."

Studies from several other countries show that surgery also results in remission of diabetes for people who are not morbidly obese. There is even discussion, particularly in other countries, of performing weight-loss surgery for people with Type 2 diabetes who are not overweight.

Not without risks

In the United States, weight-loss surgery is still largely viewed as a cosmetic procedure and obesity as a lifestyle issue, not a chronic disease. Moreover, weight-loss surgery carries risks. The death rate is about one per 200 operations and severe complications can occur, including blood clots, infections related to surgery, and the need for corrective surgery due to leaks at the staple lines.

Other complications include vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, gallstones, kidney stones, hernia and low blood sugar.

However, a risk-benefit analysis published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. by Purnell and a colleague suggests that if the number of gastric bypass operations performed on diabetic patients increased to 1 million per year, as many as 14,310 diabetes-related deaths might be prevented over five years.

Surgery also leads to other health benefits besides weight loss and better control of diabetes. Patients often see improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, gastroesophageal reflux disease and sleep apnea.

"Doctors say, 'If I can lower glucose by medications, why send patients to surgery?' " Purnell says. "Surgery, however, allows people to have meaningful and sustained weight loss and their diabetes is better. There are risks involved with surgery, obviously, but it makes sense, to me, to do surgery."

The discovery of the gut hormones that play a role in appetite and insulin regulation may also lead to new medications for Type 2 diabetes, Pories says.

"You can't operate on 31 million Americans," he says. "But if we understood this mechanism and what are the molecules secreted by the intestines that cause diabetes, then we can cure it with a pill. I would not be surprised if, in the next five years, we have new medications."

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery helps man shed obesity

St. Louis, MO
Two years ago, Herb Simmons tipped the scales at 497 pounds.

"As the years snuck up on me I noticed it was getting harder to get around," he says. "I couldn't leave home in the morning without soaking my knees in Ben Gay."

He was suffering from sleep apnea, atrial fibrillation and hypertension. Getting from his car to his house was an exhausting, stop-and-go process because he'd rest every few feet to catch his breath. He needed an extra seat belt on airplanes and a chair without arms in restaurants.

Simmons says he didn't eat big meals, but admits to snacking on chips and slurping sugary colas every day. He says he's been on every diet known to man.

"I once lost 100 pounds on OPTIFAST and regained 200," he says. "I was a yo-yo dieter."

In 2007, he attended a bariatric seminar to learn more about Lap-Band surgery, a laparoscopic procedure to place a silicone band around the top of the stomach. The band reduces the amount of food the stomach can hold so patients eat less. Simmons made an appointment with one of the surgeons, Dr. Van L. Wagner, of Heart of America Bariatrics in Lemay. He was surprised when Wagner recommended gastric bypass instead.

Gastric bypass uses staples to make the stomach smaller, then reroutes food past part of the small intestine. Patients feel full sooner, and absorb fewer calories and nutrients.

With a Lap-Band, patients lose only between 50 and 70 pounds in the first year then often taper off on weight loss, Wagner says. With gastric bypass they almost always lose between 200 and 250 pounds in two years.

"Bypass is usually a better option for patients who are sicker, older and have higher weights," Wagner says. "And Herb was extreme on several of those things so banding would not have provided the weight loss he needed."

Wagner performed laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery on Simmons Sept. 19, 2007, at St. Alexius Hospital.

Gastric bypass comes with risks, including developing gallstones and nutritional deficiencies.

Simmons takes calcium and vitamin pills and drinks protein shakes to prevent malnutrition. Two weeks after surgery, he began walking, first up and down the sidewalk in front of his house, then on a quarter-mile track. At first he couldn't walk a lap without stopping to rest several times. Within a few months, he was walking two miles. Now, he walks three to five miles every afternoon and bicycles three to five miles every evening.

He also eats a lot less, especially high-fat, sugary foods.

"It can cause dumping syndrome, which makes you want to lock yourself in a room for hours," Simmons says. WebMD describes the syndrome as a shock-like state that lasts for 30 to 60 minutes after small, easily absorbed food particles are rapidly dumped into the digestive system. Symptoms include a clammy sweat, butterflies in the stomach, a pounding pulse, cramps and diarrhea.

Simmons says his triglyceride and cholesterol levels have plummeted, his sleep apnea has dissipated and his blood pressure medications are one-fourth the dose they were before surgery. His legs no longer swell and his knees feel fine.

He credits ongoing counseling by Wagner and St. Alexius' NewStart program for his success. Both offer emotional support, nutritional guidance and ongoing education.

Last month, Simmons celebrated the second anniversary of his surgery by walking 3.7 miles as part of the Walk From Obesity event in Creve Coeur.

"After my wedding anniversary, my surgery date is the second-most important anniversary for me," Simmons says.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

California woman seriously ill after gastric bypass surgery finds hope

Modesto, CA
Tests have shown that Sandi Krueger's golf-ball-sized pouch no longer breaks down the food she eats, but dumps it directly into her small intestine. Before the feeding tube, her attempts to eat caused nausea and she often had dumping syndrome, a reaction when certain foods pass too quickly into the intestine, resulting in sweating, rapid heart beat and weakness.

Her journey began in 2002 with a gastric bypass at Doctors Hospital of Manteca, which later closed its bariatric program. She had constant dumping and severe weight loss, had a falling out with her surgeon and went to the University of California at San Francisco for corrective surgery in 2004.

Her condition improved for several months and then her condition gradually deteriorated. She stopped working as a nursing assistant last year and then UCSF rejected her request for a reversal surgery.

Repairs are complex

She's made the 165-mile trip to Delano because Keshishian accepted her Medi-Cal coverage and he specializes in revising or reversing gastric bypasses. A reversal has some of the same risks as gastric bypass; in addition, the surgeon must deal with scar tissue that grows between the left side of the liver and upper part of the stomach.

"You have to peel the stomach away from the liver," Husted said. "It's tricky and can take a long time."

Many patients who aren't absorbing enough nutrients can improve with counseling and treatment, experts say.

Until her surgery is scheduled, Krueger will stay with the tube- feeding routine — 44 ounces of water mixed with a formula of protein, vitamins and other stuff costing the family $549 a month. With her husband drawing unemployment, it strains the family budget, but at least she feels healthy.

"It is nice to be a mom again," she said. "It feels like I have missed six years of my life."

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gastric bypass surgery death rates drop, study reveals

Seattle, WA
Obese, but worried that surgery for it might kill you? The risk of that has dropped dramatically, and now is no greater than for having a gall bladder out, a hip replaced or most other major operations, new research shows.

The study looked at safety results for gastric bands and stomach stapling at 10 U.S. hospitals specializing in these procedures from 2005 through 2007. For every 1,000 patients, three died during or within a month of their surgery, and 43 had a major complication.

That is much better than the 20 or so deaths per 1,000 patients that studies found just a few years earlier. And it's surely lower than the longer term risk of dying of heart disease, diabetes and other consequences of lugging around more pounds than an obese person's organs can handle, experts say.

Many studies have compared those odds, and "all show a higher risk of dying if you do not have surgical treatment than if you do," said Dr. Eric DeMaria, weight loss surgery chief at Duke University Medical Center.

He had no role in the new study, which was led by Dr. David Flum at the University of Washington in Seattle. Results appear in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

About one-third of American adults are obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more. The index is based on height and weight. Someone who is 5-feet-4 is obese at 175 pounds; a 6-foot person is obese at 222 pounds.

Federal guidelines say obesity surgery shouldn't be considered unless someone has tried conventional ways to shed pounds and has a BMI over 40, or a BMI over 35 plus a weight-related medical problem like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Last year, at least 220,000 obesity surgeries were done in the United States, says the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. The most popular method is a gastric bypass in which a small pouch is stapled off from the rest of the stomach and connected to the small intestine. People eat less because the pouch holds little food, and they absorb fewer calories because much of the intestine is bypassed. This can be done with traditional surgery or laparoscopically, through small keyhole incisions.

Another solution is a gastric band. A ring is placed over the top of the stomach and inflated with saline to tighten it and restrict how much food can enter and pass through the stomach.

The new study looked at the safety of these methods in 3,412 gastric bypass patients and 1,198 given stomach bands.

Death, serious complications or the need for another procedure occurred in 1 percent of people receiving bands, nearly 5 percent having laparoscopic gastric bypass, and nearly 8 percent of those given a traditional surgical bypass. Maybe

DeMaria cautioned against comparing the numbers, because healthier people may have been steered toward laparoscopic procedures that may not have been an option for others with more health risks.

Complication rates were greater in people with a history of clot problems, sleep apnea and certain other medical issues, the study found.

The federal government paid for the study. Many of the researchers have ties to companies that make obesity treatments, and several have testified in surgery lawsuits.

The results put the spotlight on cost issues, Dr. Malcolm K. Robinson, a surgeon at Harvard Medical School, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

"In the past, now outdated bariatric procedures carried unacceptably high risks. The weight loss associated with the procedures was questionable, and the long-term health benefits were unproven," he wrote.

Now, the evidence shows that "surgery is safe, effective, and affordable," because it can lower doctor visits, medication use and other medical expenses, Robinson wrote. However, "the expense of operating on the millions of potentially eligible obese adults could overwhelm an already financially stressed health care system."
On the Net:

* New England Journal:
* National Institutes of Health surgery explanation:

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

More than 50% Increase in gastric bypass surgeries over past 12 months in UK

York City, UK
Operations to combat weight gain have increased by more than a half in the past 12 months.

The news follows the tragic death of York mum Kerry Greaves, who underwent gastric bypass surgery to try to slim down so her daughter, Melissa, would not be teased at school. Sadly, complications led to Kerry’s death at the age of only 30.

Figures released by the NHS show that in the 12 months leading up to April this year, 4,324 people nationally underwent operations to have gastric bypasses or gastric bands fitted to help them lose weight. That is a 52 per cent increase over the 2007-2008 figures, when 2,838 opted for surgery.

Operations of this type can cost about £10,000 and most of those who opt to go “under the knife” are women – about three-quarters of the total who opt for surgery.

The treatment is predominantly available for patients whose body mass index (BMI) exceeds 50 – the average BMI is between 18 and 25.

People with a BMI of more than 40 are considered to be morbidly obese while a measurement of more than 30 is classed as obese.

According to the NHS figures, only 38 per cent of people are a healthy weight. The rise in the number of people wanting gastric bypass surgery has been borne out by York GP Dr David Fair, who said he had seen a marked increase in the number of people wanting the procedure.

But surgery should always be seen as the last option when dieting and exercise has failed.

Although low risk, Dr Fair said that potential problems could arise with any type of operations.

That is what happened to Kerry. After having the operation her stomach failed to heal properly, and she underwent a further 14 operations before dying of organ failure.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

New study claims gastric bypass and gastric banding weight-loss surgery safe

St. Louis, MO
Obese patients who undergo weight-loss surgery have a low risk of dying or developing complications that require a second surgery or longer hospital stay, a study found.

About 4.1 percent of 4,610 people in the study who had either gastric bypass surgery or gastric banding developed at least one major complication in the 30 days after surgery, according to research published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Those who underwent gastric banding had fewer complications.

Weight-loss surgery has soared in popularity in the U.S. The number of such operations rose more than tenfold to about 171,000 in 2005 from about 16,200 in 1994, according to an editorial in the journal. The data shows that, at least in the short term, these procedures are relatively safe and future research may help identify which surgery is best for a particular patient, said study author Bruce Wolfe, a professor of surgery at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, in a telephone interview. Based on the findings, he said, "the surgery is basically safe."

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gastric bypass surgery using robots reduce pain and speed recovery

Phoenix, AZ
Gastric bypass surgery has gone robotic at one Arizona hospital.

Using robots, doctors at Banner Gateway Medical Center can perform the surgery from inside the person's body, KPHO-TV reported.

"The robot allows you to perform the surgery (not only) in high definition, but also in three dimensions," said chief of surgery Dr. Rob Schuster.

Schuster said the procedure is less invasive and painful and it cuts the risk of infection.

Doctors use state-of-the-art technology with a three-dimensional image of the surgical area. The display controls the surgical instruments, working with the doctors' hands, wrists and eyes in real time.

"It really allows us to perform a more precise and perfect operation," Schuster said.

Schuster said the new procedure will result in shorter hospital stays and shorter recovery times, so patients are able to return more quickly to their normal routines.

Banner Gateway Medical Center is one of only a handful of hospitals in the country that use this technology.

KPHO's report did not address any additional costs or risks from the assisted surgery.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

ASMBS: Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding less effective than gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy

Dallas, TX
Patients who underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding achieved less weight loss and less improvement in comorbid conditions than those who had gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy.

Slightly more than half of gastric banding patients lost more than 50% of excess weight after five years compared with more than 90% of patients who underwent laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, Diego Awruch, MD, reported at the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Surgical failure, defined as less than 50% excess weight loss, was almost six times more common with gastric banding.

"Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding was associated with fewer complications, but the percent weight loss at one and five years was inferior to laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass," said Dr. Awruch, of Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Santiago, Chile.

"Surgical failure occurred in more than 40% of patients who underwent gastric banding, and 16% of the patients required surgical revision of the initial procedure," he said.

Similar disparities in weight loss occurred in the comparison of gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy.

Across the entire range of body mass index (BMI), laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy led to greater weight loss, said David Schumacher, MD, of Wright State University in Kettering, Ohio.

Dr. Awruch reported outcomes for 91 patients treated with laparoscopic Roux-en-Y surgery and 62 who underwent gastric banding from 2001 to 2003.

Five-year follow-up was available for 73.6% of the gastric bypass patients and 91.5% of the gastric banding patients.

Comparison of baseline characteristics showed that bypass patients weighed significantly more (106.4 versus 97.6 kg, P<0.001) and had a significantly higher BMI (39 versus 35, P<0.001).

Gastric bypass was associated with a higher rate of early complications (14.2% versus 1.6%, P=0.009). In addition, nine bypass patients required reoperation or endoscopic dilatation compared with one patient in the banding group.

Late complications occurred in 37.3% of bypass patients compared with 27.4% of gastric banding patients, but the difference did not reach statistical significance. A higher proportion of gastric banding patients required reintervention (23 of 62 versus 20 of 91).

Percent weight loss at five years averaged 92.9% with gastric bypass compared with 59.1% with gastric banding (P<0.001).

Dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes improved or resolved in 80% to 100% of bypass patients compared with 20% to 40% of the gastric banding group.

At five years, 94% of bypass patients and 54.4% of gastric banding patients had maintained >50% excess weight loss.

Dr. Schumacher reported outcome data for 104 patients who underwent laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and 227 who had gastric banding from January 2006 through August 2008. Follow-up data were 99% as of January 2009.

Among patients followed for at least 18 months (about half of the total), weight loss averaged 133.82 lb in the sleeve group versus 58.93 lb in the banding group.

For the same time interval, excess weight loss averaged 55.54% with sleeve gastrectomy versus 38.65% with banding.

Stratification of patients by baseline BMI showed that sleeve patients had a greater excess weight loss in patients with BMI more than 50 (50% versus 33%), 40 to 49 (68% versus 40%), and less than 40 (90% versus 43%).

Readmission rates were 6% of sleeve gastrectomy patients and 1.3% with gastric banding. One patient (0.96%) in the sleeve group required reoperation compared with 19 (8.4%) gastric banding patients.

"Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy appears to allow greater weight loss in all BMI classifications over time with fewer reoperations," said Dr. Schumacher. "The most efficient weight loss occurred in the lowest BMI classification.

"Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy can be used effectively as a primary operation in any weight classification, achieving a greater than 50% excess weight loss in all BMI subsets."

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gastric Bypass surgery: Pros and Cons

Tulsa, OK
Gastric bypass surgery is growing more popular every year as America's obesity epidemic tips the scales. Even the elderly, and people with health problems are turning to this surgical solution to obesity.

It is a surgery that saves lives. But some also warn there can be life-changing drawbacks.

"These were 26 - and I wear a size 8 now," said Leslie Blunt as she proudly showed off the pants she will never wear again thanks to gastric bypass surgery. She has lost 140 pounds. "It works. It does. You live a healthier life," she added.

Micah Anderson chose gastric bypass surgery when his weight ballooned to 500 pounds. "Lost little over 200 pounds - easy," he told 2News anchor Karen Larsen. "I'm happy with myself. More confidence."

While gastric bypass is known for bringing on drastic weight loss, what many do not realize are specific changes it may cause for an individual, along with health benefits.

"A lot of this junk food they were eating before - their taste has disappeared they don't want it anymore," according to Dr. Luis Gorospe, gastric bypass surgeon at Bailey Medical Center in Owasso. Both Anderson and Blunt went to Dr. Gorospe for surgery. His patients come from surrounding states, drawn by his surgery success rate, the promise of dramatic weight loss and the immediate health benefits of gastric bypass.

"If they have diabetes - 70 percent of these patients wake up with normal blood sugar and will not require medications - forever," Dr. Gorospe said.

Studies show gastric bypass may improve or even eliminate such health problems as:

Leslie Blunt says she is living proof, "I don't have high blood pressure. I don't have diabetes. I am pill free."

However, Micah Anderson tells a different story. "I'll vomit maybe not every week - but if something doesn't agree it does come right back up."

When surgeons create a tiny new stomach for patients, vomiting is a common problem when patients eat too much, too fast - until they get used to their new, smaller stomach. Micah says he expected that - but then he started fainting - once behind the wheel of his car.

Anderson's wife Katie said, "The passing out has happened four times. Spells where he could potentially pass out... weekly!"

Frightened by the potential danger such episodes represented, the Andersons began researching online and discovered other gastric bypass patients having such problems.

"Describing the same kind of drunk-like symptoms, incoherent, can't talk, slurring the speech. and people were experiencing the same things," Katie added.

The Andersons say they went to numerous doctors and nutritionists, trying to find a physician who was experienced with gastric surgery side effects. After trial and error, they say they have finally found the right doctor to care for Micah. As a result, Micah now follows a diet carefully crafted to meet his personal needs. He eats every two hours, consumes plenty of protein and takes vitamins.

"For me its lack of eating. I forget to eat and that's what causes my issues. It's partially my fault as much as it is the surgery," Micah said. "If I don't follow the rules like they tell you - you do have issues."

Doctor Gorospe agreed. He said healthy eating - the same issue obese patients struggle with before gastric bypass - is more important than ever after surgery. "If you follow the rules, this surgery will be successful," Dr. Gorospe said.

Because some patients do encounter issues following surgery, and with their new lifestyle, Doctor Gorospe offers monthly support groups. "I make it a point of being there," he said. "I want to be available to my patients." The meetings offer patients an opportunity to share their stories and talk with Dr. Gorospe.

Micah did attend the monthly meetings. However, some of his problems did not occur until several years following the procedure. As a result of his struggle, the Anderson's suggest to those considering gastric bypass surgery: do plenty of research, know the rules they will have to live by, and read up on potential side effects.

"There is a list and, by golly, one of those things on the list will affect you," Katie Anderson said. "They just need to tell you flat out - you are trading one set of issues for another set of issues."

However, when asked if he would have the surgery again, Micah's answer is, "Unfortunately, yes." He went on to say he is pleased with his more than 200 pound weight loss. His joints ache less when he gets out of bed in the morning, and it is easier to be active.

Leslie Blunt agrees. Now, this svelte hair stylist says work is easy. No more suffering from carrying too much weight while being on her feet each day. Plus, she loves buying clothes with her new look and the fact that she is setting a good example for her young children by living a healthier lifestyle.

In fact, Leslie says gastric bypass surgery is the best thing she ever did for herself. "Yes! I would do it over and over and over again! I never want to be that way again."

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Help now available after failed gastric bypass surgery

San Diego, CA
A new procedure, called a ROSE procedure, is now available for patients who have had gastric bypass, lost weight and then slowly put weight back on again as their stomach pouch stretched. One of the problems with surgeries that reduce the size of the stomach for weight loss is that the pouch size may not be permanent. Over time, the pouch can enlarge to the point where meals of significant size can be eaten.

Rose, or Restorative Obesity Surgery, Endolumenal, is an outpatient procedure where the surgeon inserts a tiny camera and special tools into the stomach by introducing them into the mouth and down through the esophagus. Remarkably, no incisions are made to reduce the size of the stomach opening and the actual stomach. The surgeon essentially makes folds in the tissue of the stomach from the inside, similar to creating pleats, then uses stitches to hold the folds in place.

The procedure is currently available at the Center For The Treatment of Obesity at UC San Diego Medical Center.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Woman's decision to undergo gastric bypass changes her life

Harrisburg, PA
Corinna Van Hine's moments of reckoning with her weight were mounting. At 30, she was out of breath when she walked with her husband, often avoiding hills. Shopping for women's clothes was a thing of the past, and she was buying from the racks in men's departments instead. She could barely squeeze into seats at movie theaters or amusement parks.

The worst setback was when her 320-pound frame kept her from horseback riding, a passion since she was 5 years old. "It really limited me because you have to have a big enough horse to handle your weight," Van Hine said. "My weight had gotten to a point where it wasn't safe for the horse for me to be riding it."

That's when the Steelton woman decided enough was enough. After years of shedding pounds through dieting and exercise only to regain the weight and sometimes more, she hit the books and Internet for any information on weight-loss surgeries.

It eventually led Van Hine to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center's Surgical Weight Loss Program, where patients go through an extensive evaluation before undergoing six months of medically supervised weight loss prior to approved surgery. In March 2006, she attended an informational session with surgeons who explained the types of surgery offered -- Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding -- the risks involved and what to expect afterward. Van Hine left the meeting feeling more confident than she had in a long time.
Vince CassaroSince gastric bypass surgery, Van Hine has lost 115 pounds. She also eats better and exercises, often for a 2-mile walk with Callie, her dog, in and around her Swatara Township home.

Although she had lost 60 to 70 pounds on her own in 2001, she was sidelined by a broken collarbone, and the weight became increasingly difficult to keep off. "I said to myself, 'This is probably my only answer out of it,'" Van Hine said. "I thought, at 30 years old, I can't be doing this my whole life -- losing it and gaining it back. It hurts too much to be yo-yoing back and forth again and again."

Ann M. Rogers, a physician and the director of Hershey's weight loss program, said Van Hine is one of hundreds who have turned to its surgeries to lead healthier lives. About 80 percent of the patients are women, all of whom are severely obese -- 100 pounds over their ideal weight or a body mass index greater than 40 -- with health issues linked to their weight, Rogers said.

Like Van Hine, most candidates also are well informed about the surgeries before they walk in the hospital's doors. "I'd say 99.9 percent of them are ready to go with surgery by the time they come to our informational sessions," Rogers said. "Most of them have already spent years trying to lose weight. No matter how much they are able to lose, they invariably gain it back and then some. They simply can't keep it off."

In December 2006, after months of preparation and restricted dieting, Van Hine was wheeled in for a laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, in which doctors create a small pouch and bypass a portion of a patient's intestines through several small incisions.

Weight loss occurs rapidly in the first six months following surgery and slowly tapers off 18 to 24 months afterward. Patients can expect to lose an average of 77 percent of their excess body weight within a year after surgery, according to experts. As with any surgery, however, the procedure carried its risks, and they weighed on Van Hine's mind.

Death can occur in about 1 percent of gastric bypass surgeries, and less severe complications can arise in 10 percent of cases. Surgical risks include intestinal leakage and internal bleeding, while all surgeries carry the risk of pneumonia, heart attack and blood clots.

Fortunately, Van Hine said, she escaped any serious complications and, to her surprise, didn't feel much pain when she awoke from her surgery." I was shocked that I didn't feel bad. It didn't hurt, but it felt like I had done some sit-ups," she said. "I didn't use any pain medication by the second day."

There were challenges ahead, Van Hine said, and she was mentally prepared for it. For weeks, she would have to live on a liquid-only, protein diet. Small amounts of foods would come in several months. "I've gotten sick a few times," Van Hine said, usually because she didn't chew her food long enough. "That's the tool of the surgery. It's your body saying, 'No, you can't eat that.'"

As of October, Van Hine has dropped nearly 115 pounds, taking her from a size 32 to 14 or 16 --in the women's departments. The real payoff though: She is finally feeling more like herself.

"Mentally, I never felt like a fat person. Finally, the person I was in my head and the person I am on the outside are ... becoming closer together. It feels like being let out of jail."

Before surgery, Corinna ate more than the average person -- when she wasn't dieting over the years, that is. It wasn't uncommon for her to go through fast-food drive-throughs for loaded hamburgers and greasy fries. She also didn't know "when to say when" during dinners. Today, her appetite is very satisfied with smaller amounts of food, and she can still enjoy her favorite prime rib -- she just has to chew it to death before swallowing.

She's not concerned about losing more weight because she's happy at her current level. If she loses more, great. If she doesn't, that's fine, too. She is well aware that she has to exercise and keep a healthy diet to maintain the surgery's results.
Vince CassaroJason Van Hine, Corinna's husband, has lost 40 pounds with his wife. He didn't undergo surgery; he's just exercising and eating better.

Van Hine's husband, Jason, didn't realize how overweight his wife was until he recently stumbled upon some old photographs. "She kind of looked miserable," he said. "I didn't see that when I took those pictures then."

The couple now exercises together at a local gym, enjoys walks and is working to restore their old home.

"A lot of people think this a quick and easy fix, and it's not at all," she said. "It's a massive lifestyle change. You need to be committed to it. You can build a house with a hammer, but the hammer is not going to do the work by itself. You've got to choose to use the tool."

Surgical treatments

There are three ways that bariatric surgery may promote weight loss in obese patients:

• Decreasing food intake (restriction).
• Causing some food to be poorly digested or absorbed (malabsorption).
• Combination of restriction and malabsorption.

The Roux-Y Gastric Bypass is the surgical procedure offered at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. It provides gastric restriction combined with some malabsorption. Both the open and laparoscopic surgical procedures are available.

Open gastric bypass surgery can now be performed through a 6- to 8-inch midline incision. This operation is restrictive in nature but also creates a "dumping physiology." A 30- to 60-cc gastric pouch is created using several staple lines. The gastric pouch is drained into a segment of jejunum (small intestine) and "bypasses" the distal stomach and duodenum.

The small gastric pouch is "restrictive" and consumption of excessive carbohydrate rich liquids causes "dumping" or abdominal discomfort. The result is sustained weight loss of 50 percent excess body weight in more than 80 percent of patients. Gastric bypass is associated with iron and vitamin B12 deficiency, therefore patients must take supplemental vitamins after surgery.

You're not eligible: If your body mass index is below 35, you are not eligible for this surgical procedure. To find your body mass index, type the term into any Internet search engine to come up with a calculator.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gastric bypass surgery’s complications can be devastating for some patients

Modesto, CA
Sandi Krueger of Turlock, Calif., dropped 120 pounds with weight-loss surgery, but she is hardly a success story.

The 2002 surgery led to chronic malnutrition and anemia. As the pounds melted away, so did her life.

With a sunken face and protruding collar bones, she is too weak to work and spends most afternoons on the couch wrapped in a blanket.

She has thoughts of giving up, but wants to be there for 12-year-old daughter Megan and 19-year-old son Dustin.

“It’s not acceptable leaving me like this,” said the 103-pound Krueger, who at 38 looks closer to 50. “I’ve gone to doctor after doctor and basically they don’t help me.”

According to studies on bariatric surgery, patients with long-term complications are in the minority and disastrous outcomes such as Krueger’s are rare. But with 200,000 weight-loss surgeries being performed each year, she and other patients believe the long-term complications deserve more attention.

Looking for hope

Krueger’s options appear to be running out. Her anemic blood hasn’t been responding to iron shots and she was told last month that she can’t have the gastric bypass reversed.

“This isn’t a life,” said Robert De Kasha, her brother. “If she doesn’t find an answer, she is just going to fade away.”

Spurred by a national epidemic of obesity, bariatric surgery has become a standard of care for people with weight-related health issues. It has improved the lives of people who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and other issues, experts say. No one is sure why some bariatric patients fare better than others.

The stomach-shrinking surgery has risks, such as leaks that can cause life-threatening infections, hernias and bowel obstructions. After the surgery, patients are expected to follow nutritional and lifestyle guidelines to achieve weight loss and avoid trouble with their altered digestive tracts.

Most patients will have “dumping syndrome” at some point, when food passes too quickly from the tiny stomach pouch into the small intestine. Because the stomach hasn’t broken down the food, the person gets a rush of blood sugar, rapid heartbeat, sweating and nausea.

Other patients may have iron and vitamin B-12 deficiencies years after surgery. All bariatric patients need to take vitamin supplements for life.

A nationwide study released in 2006 concluded that bariatric surgery complications are common. By examining insurance claims for 2,522 surgeries, researchers with the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 40 percent of patients had complications in the six months after surgery, about double the rate in previous studies.

The complications ranged from the minor to the severe, including dumping syndrome, problems with the bariatric connections, hernias, infections and pneumonia. Post-surgery problems sent 18 percent of patients back to the hospital, some for costly readmissions or corrective surgery.

The agency contends that surgical advances recently have lowered the complication rate to 30 percent, still high for an elective procedure, said William Encinosa, lead author of the study.

“Anytime you can cut into the intestine, you have a risk of complications,” he said. “Clearly there are benefits for people who are morbidly obese, but these patients need to know what they are getting into.”

Live longer

Less is known about complications years after the surgery, although a 10-year Swedish study found many patients kept the weight off and had increased longevity.

Krueger, who once worked two jobs as a nursing assistant, sought treatment for an injured back in 2002. A specialist suggested that the 5-foot, 250-pound woman lose weight through bariatric surgery to deal with the back problem, she said.

She had what’s called a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass at Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Calif. To perform the common procedure, surgeons create a small pouch from the stomach and make a connection between the bottom of the pouch and a section of small intestine.

Most of the stomach and part of the intestine are bypassed, so the person feels full after a few bites of food and the intestine absorbs fewer nutrients.

Krueger, weighing 219 by the time of surgery, lost weight quickly as dumping syndrome made her sick for months. When she went to the doctor with complaints, he urged her to stick with the dietary instructions and take supplements, she said.

Bariatric surgeries were discontinued at Doctors Hospital of Manteca, so Krueger sought help from specialists at University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. In 2004, surgeons there corrected a problem from the initial surgery and, as her strength returned, she got up on water skis for the first time.

She gained 22 pounds, then her troubles returned and she bottomed out at 98 pounds.

With her body starved of nutrients, her blood sugar dropped so low she was admitted to Emanuel Medical Center for a week of monitoring, she said.

Tests have shown that her pouch no longer holds food but dumps it directly into the small intestine. Even if she eats five times a day, she doesn’t get the protein and other nutrients she needs.

She’s tried protein bars and countless other foods and even finds that fish is hard on her digestive tract. Daughter Megan brings her toast and crackers because she knows those are easy on her stomach.

Krueger said it’s heartbreaking for her daughter to see her tired and faint all the time. She has lost hair, her teeth are decaying, and she’s often out of breath.

To treat her anemia, she’s had a blood transfusion and three rounds of iron infusions. A reaction to the last infusion caused her blood pressure to plummet and nurses to come to her aid.

Second thoughts

Last year, she was considered for having the gastric bypass reversed at UCSF, but doctors told her in December that it was too dangerous. They were concerned that her remaining stomach would have inadequate blood flow and would rot, she said.

“That day was hard for me,” she said. “I don’t know what is ahead. I feel my life has been taken from me.”

Dr. Guilherme Campos, director of bariatric surgery at UCSF, said about 1 percent to 4 percent of the center’s patients suffer from nutritional deficiencies over the long term. The UCSF center has dieticians and other staff to work with patients with malnutrition. Reversal operations are major procedures and are done as a last resort, he said.

The surgeon contended that bariatric surgery is an effective way to treat morbid and superobesity, the main reason university hospitals have adopted the treatment in recent years.

“The benefits by far outweigh the risks that are associated with the procedure,” he said.

While many patients sing the praises of weight-loss surgery, including television personalities Al Roker and Star Jones, some patients say they’ve had a tough time.

Donna Sellers, 61, of Modesto, said four members of her family had weight-loss surgery with mixed results. Her husband and younger daughter lost weight with no complications. But Donna shed weight too fast and suffered from dumping, malnutrition and dehydration the first year after her 2004 surgery at Memorial Medical Center.

Attempts to eat made her feel sick and sweat profusely, even though she followed the guidelines to eat pureed food and take small bites, she said. She went from 246 pounds to 123 in six months and landed in the emergency room, where she was treated for dehydration for several hours, she said.

She finally discovered she could eat chicken and Swiss cheese, and force-fed herself. To deal with the hot flashes of dumping syndrome, she laid on the cold floor tiles of her kitchen to eat meals, she said.

Five years after the surgery, she still is forcing herself to eat and is relying on her nursing training to maintain her weight in the 130s.

“I eat three or four bites and then wait 10 minutes and eat some more,” she said. “I eat a scrambled egg for breakfast, and tomorrow a scrambled egg makes me sick.”

She said one of her daughters had the same post-surgery troubles, as well as a calcium deficiency resulting in dental problems.

A 2001 surgery in Southern California saved Alycsha Bostic of Merced, Calif., from sleep apnea and asthma attacks. But she developed hernias requiring two operations and iron deficiencies that cause headaches and dizziness.

Losing 160 pounds boosted her fertility and she got pregnant twice despite being on birth control, she said. Doctors put a port in her chest to feed iron into her blood during pregnancy. Her ferrous levels are a third of normal since her second child was born in 2007.

Bostic, 34, hopes doctors can figure how to get more iron into her system — and she needs another hernia operation.

“I am so tired of having surgery,” said Bostic, who talks with other bariatric patients with complications. “We’ve all had hair loss. I still get dumping syndrome. If I don’t chew my food 50 times, it collects at the bottom on my esophagus and I throw up.”

More than 3,000 weight-loss surgeries have been performed at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto since 2003.

Deana Chiarchianis, health center manager, said the post-surgery complications at the hospital are far lower than the numbers in the AHRQ report. The study considered data before widespread use of laparoscopic techniques, which have reduced problems such as surgical wound infections and hernias, she said.

The hospital tries to ensure good outcomes by evaluating and educating surgical candidates, including a psychological assessment of their ability to cope with the surgery. It also stresses post-surgery guidelines such as teaching patients to prevent dumping through the proper choice of foods.

“They need to understand that the surgery is a tool and the patient is responsible for complying with the recommendations for follow-up, nutrition, exercise and behavior change,” she said.

Dr. Kelvin Higa, a Fresno, Calif., surgeon and past president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, said it’s important for patients to have lifelong follow-up with their surgeons. Usually, there are surgical options for patients with severe complications such as Krueger’s.

“Any patient that has those problems should not be sitting there. They should seek help,” he said. “Almost invariably we can take these patients and adjust their anatomy to take care of their nutritional issues.”

Krueger said her poor health has taken a toll on family life. No longer does she take Megan to cheerleading and dance classes. She and her husband have postponed their dream of building a home.

Krueger worked as long as she could at Emanuel Medical Center last year to keep her health benefits, but ran out of strength. Her primary care doctor is trying to line her up with a nutritionist or hematologist who accepts Medi-Cal.

A feeding tube could be next if she loses more weight, which reminds her of a 32-year-old bariatric patient at a care facility where she worked.

“She had a feeding tube and it really bothered me,” Krueger said. “If I don’t get better, I know my organs will take a toll. If they would put me on the operating table to take me back to 250 pounds, I would do it.”

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Friday, January 16, 2009

3 sisters net triple-digit weight loss after gastric bypass surgery

Joliet, IL
One sister bikes, one walks on trails and one works out on a treadmill. All of them are now living healthier lives after undergoing bariatric weight-loss surgery at Silver Cross Hospital in July.

Together, the three sisters have already lost more than 300 pounds.

"One of the reasons we decided to have the surgery was because our mom was overweight and died at age 68 of congestive heart failure," said Sandra Schmidt. "Our dad was thrilled when we told him and is so proud of all of us that we have stayed committed to losing weight."

Inspired by a co-worker who had weight-loss surgery, Sandra told her sisters, Andrea Russell and Pamela Bricker, about it. They decided to attend a free informational seminar at Silver Cross.

"This was a great way to learn about the entire process," said Andrea. "Once I learned what my options were, my apprehensions were alleviated and I became more determined to live a healthier life. Plus, it has been a great support having my sisters to talk to during the entire process."

Their surgeon, Dr. Christopher Joyce, and his partner, Dr. Brian Lahmann, have performed more than 1,000 weight-loss procedures, including laparoscopic gastric bypass, Lap-Band and the new Realize gastric band system. A Bariatric Center of Excellence as well as a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Blue Distinction Center for bariatric surgery, the Silver Cross program has a 0 percent operative death rate and a low complication rate. And patients lose an average of 86 percent of their excess body weight four years after gastric bypass surgery.

"Our patients benefit from a multidisciplinary approach," Dr. Joyce said. "We screen them very carefully to ensure their success and safety."

Pamela says you have to be determined to stick to the program, but the support is there to help you succeed. "We couldn't have found a better program. Dr. Joyce, his staff and the nurses at Silver Cross were all so kind, supportive and down-to-earth. We wouldn't have been so successful in our weight loss if it were not for them," said Pamela.

"Obesity is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes," Joyce said. "Unfortunately, there is a lot of prejudice against obese people, but this surgery can help them lose weight and, most importantly, keep it off."

"Prior to my surgery, I suffered from high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and painful joints. Now I'm not taking any of those medications," said Pamela.

"I've lost weight that I never could lose," added her sister, Andrea.

"I should have done the surgery years ago because I wasted my forties being overweight," said Sandra. "My life has changed dramatically. I used to have foot problems and now I don't, and my stamina is so much stronger, enabling me to play with my 7-month-old grandson."

"The sisters are a wonderful example of how life-changing bariatric surgery can be," said Joyce. "Their new passion for life truly shows when you talk with them."

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Physicians debate best candidates for gastric bypass

Washington, D.C.
Recent studies showing that gastric bypass surgery extends the lives of obese patients is forcing surgeons to make tough decisions about who should go under the knife and who shouldn't.

Internists, cardiologists and endocrinologists, more than ever, are referring patients who traditionally haven't been candidates for the weight-loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery.

"I am being asked to operate on 78-year-olds with co-morbidities of heart disease and diabetes," said Dr. Edward H. Phillips, executive vice chairman of the Department of Surgery and a surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Phillips questions whether these patients will benefit, or if the damage has already been done.

"So, while it is obvious a 30-year-old will benefit, at what age is too old?" he asked.

The success of gastric bypass is also stoking debate about its use as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Mounting evidence suggests this type of surgery may dramatically improve patients with the disease, freeing them from a lifetime of diabetes medications.

"There's more acceptance now of the concept that bariatric surgery is a truly life-saving type of therapy rather than just a way to shed pounds," said Dr. Francesco Rubino, chief of Gastrointestinal Metabolic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Still, more long-term studies are needed, and clinicians and policymakers must reach a consensus on who should have access to this type of surgery, noted Rubino, who directed the 1st World Congress on Interventional Therapies for Type 2 Diabetes, held in New York City in September.

An estimated 205,000 bariatric surgeries were performed in the United States in 2007, according to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). That's an increase of almost 20 percent from two years earlier.

If patients commit to making necessary changes in their diet and exercise regimens, gastric bypass surgery can provide long-term, consistent weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Not only does it help shed pounds, but a pair of studies published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that it can help obese people live longer.

One study, led by Ted Adams of the University of Utah School of Medicine, tracked almost 16,000 obese people, half of whom had weight-loss surgery. After an average of seven years, the death rate was 40 percent lower for people who had the surgery compared with those who didn't. Diabetes-related deaths were cut by a whopping 92 percent.

The other study, led by a Swedish team, involved more than 6,000 obese patients. After an average follow-up of more than a decade, those who had bariatric surgery were 29 percent less likely to die than those who did not undergo surgery.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The trouble with gastric bypass surgery

Phoenix, AZ
Many extremely obese people these days, under the mistaken belief that it will be the answer to their health problems, are flocking to get gastric bypass surgery. Now this treatment option may be pushed on even more people. A study published in The American Journal of Managed Care reports that bariatric surgery can "pay for itself" by diminishing the number of insurance claims filed by people who are grossly overweight.

Gastric Bypass Surgery Is No Picnic

However, gastric bypass surgery has many associated risks. The risks, according to a Mayo Clinic article, include death, blood clots in the legs, leaking at the staple lines in the stomach, incision hernia, narrowing of the opening between the stomach and small intestine, dumping syndrome, iron deficiency anemia, vitamin B-12 deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, dehydration, gallstones, bleeding stomach ulcers, intolerance to certain foods, kidney stones, low blood sugar, body aches, fatigue (like when one has the flu), feeling cold, dry skin, hair thinning and hair loss, and mood changes. Of course, there are also the same risks that go along with any surgery, like bleeding, infections, and adverse reactions to the anesthesia. That doesn't exactly sound like a picnic, no pun intended.

Will Surgery Save Insurance Companies Money?

Unfortunately, there is even more reason to be concerned about gastric bypass surgery. Dr. Douglass warns in an article that the funding for the study that purports that this surgery will save insurance companies money came from a company known as Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., which is a major manufacturer of bariatric surgical instruments. Additionally, Dr. Douglass points out that Dr. Scott Shikora, a co-author of the study, is the president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. It's easy to see that the members of this group would clearly benefit if insurance providers would decide that they could save money if more patients were approved for this course of treatment.

Up to Five Percent Die Within a Year of Surgery

The sad truth of the matter is that, according to Dr. Douglass, up to five percent of the patients who undergo this course of treatment are dead within a year. (That's certainly one way to trim down future medical costs.) While Dr. Douglass believes that surgery should always be a last resort, many other doctors believe that the current requirement by insurance companies that people first try to lose weight by a six-month doctor-supervised weight loss program is unreasonable. Says Douglass: "People like Shikora would prefer that patients go right from the dining room table to his operating table." While natural health advocates might not agree with Dr. Douglass on all of the issues, most certainly appreciate his acerbic wit. Hmmm... was the guy who said that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" a bariatric surgeon?

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gastric bypass surgery can reverse metabolic syndrome

Rochester, MN
Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, in extremely obese patients can be cured by gastric bypass surgery, according to the findings from a new study.

"Reversibility of metabolic syndrome depends more on the percentage of excess weight lost than on other clinical or demographic characteristics," the research team reports in the journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

To determine the effect of major weight loss on the metabolic syndrome, Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez and colleagues evaluated patients being considered for bypass surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, between 1990 and 2003.

All patients met at least three of the five criteria for the metabolic syndrome - high levels of triglycerides (a "bad" fat), low levels of high-density lipoprotein "good" cholesterol, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and obesity.

The study group included 180 patients who underwent gastric bypass and 157 patients who did not undergo the procedure, either because they declined surgery, were denied coverage by insurance providers, or did not maintain lifestyle interventions during their evaluation. All patients received medical and dietetic care and extensive counseling about the importance of physical activity.

The mean body mass index (BMI) was 49 in the surgical group and 44 in the nonsurgical group. A normal BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9.

During an average follow-up of 3.4 years, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome decreased from 87 percent to 29 percent in the surgical group, and from 85 percent to 75 percent in the control group. The authors estimate that the number of patients needed to treat with bypass surgery to cure one patient of metabolic syndrome was 2.1.

Weight loss averaged 44 lbs in the surgical group and 0.2 lbs in the nonsurgical group. Additional analysis showed that the percentage of excess weight lost was the primary factor that determined the resolution of the metabolic syndrome.

"Our study provides robust data to practicing clinicians about the benefits of counseling weight reduction in metabolic syndrome patients," Lopez-Jimenez and his associates conclude.

They recommend "gastric bypass surgery should be considered as a treatment option in patients with metabolic syndrome that has not responded to conservative measures" in those eligible for surgery.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, August 2008.

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