Press-Republican

June 18, 2013

Bariatric surgery offers several options for weight loss

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Allsun Lovell had struggled with weight her entire life.

She followed the typical pattern: going on one diet to lose weight only to gain that weight back, and more, before trying another diet and reliving the weight-loss/weight-gain cycle.

“I tried everything — dieting with exercising, and it never worked,” she said from her Plattsburgh home recently. “I was becoming an expert at dieting, but without success.”

Frustrated and discouraged, Lovell started to look into surgery as an option for weight loss through the Adirondack Medical Center Bariatric Program.

EXPLORING OPTIONS

“They do a really good job (introducing new patients to the options available through the hospital’s weight-loss program),” she said.

“You go through a thorough organization before you make any kind of decision. They look at the pros and cons available to you, and then they help you choose what’s best for you.”

The Bariatric Program offers four surgical procedures, each one providing unique advantages for individual patients.

“Morbid obesity is the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disability in the country,” said Dr. Michael Hill, a thoracic surgeon who specializes in bariatric procedures for the Adirondack Surgical Group.

“We have four distinct procedures (designed to reduce the number of calories a patient’s body absorbs during meals),” he added. “Ultimately, it’s the patient’s decision (to choose a specific procedure). Our job is to educate patients and help them consider the different options. 

LAP BAND

“If you choose the lap band, then we want to help you have success with that decision.”

Traditionally, the lap band had been the most popular choice for bariatric surgery. In this option, a rubber band is placed around the stomach near its upper end, creating a small pouch and narrow passage into the rest of the stomach.

It’s the procedure that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently chose to assist his efforts in losing weight, and it’s the option that Lovell opted for as well.

“With the lap band, you have some control over the adjustment,” she said. “When you start to lose weight, the band can get a little looser, so you go in and get it adjusted. If it gets too tight, you can have it adjusted as well.”

Lovell had the procedure done three years ago and was immediately impressed with how quickly it changed her life.

“I was very nervous about the surgery,” she said. “When I met Dr. Hill, I told him to be very careful and to treat my body well. He said, ‘Don’t worry; I’ll take care of you,’ and it went very well. He really did follow through (with his promise).”

Lovell has lost 100 pounds since the procedure, but even more importantly, she has found the energy that had abandoned her when she was excessively overweight.

“Shortly after the procedure, I ran in a 5K,” she said. “I’ve joined the women’s roller-derby team, and I’m skating with them now. In general, I have much more energy and am more active in my lifestyle.”

She is also going to be married later this summer, she added, noting that her fiancé has been with her throughout the weight-loss process.

Although the lap band has the lowest risk of the four procedures, it is no longer the No. 1 choice for people moving toward bariatric surgery, Hill noted.

“It used to be that about half of the procedures we performed were lap bands (around 2005),” he said. “Now, they’re about 20 percent of the overall procedures.”

MEDICAL PROBLEMS

Sometimes, one of the other procedures may have advantages in correcting other medical problems such as diabetes while reducing weight, Hill added.

One option beyond the lap band is called vertical-sleeve gastrectomy. It generates rapid weight loss by dramatically reducing the size of the stomach and restricting the intake of calories. The stomach continues to function, so most foods can be consumed but in smaller amounts.

The Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass procedure has become the most common and successful procedure in the nation. With this technique, part of the small intestine is used to bypass the stomach and parts of the intestine to restrict absorption of calories and nutrients.

Finally, the duodenal switch restricts the amount of food that can be eaten while reducing the amount of food that is absorbed into the body. The procedure is especially beneficial for patients with an extremely high body-mass index, which measures fat content in the body.

“Our patients continue to do great,” Hill said. “They’re seeing lifelong advantages through weight loss.”

The program completed around 300 procedures in 2012, and doctors have performed more than 2,000 procedures since the program began in 2000.

Email Jeff Meyers:jmeyers@pressrepublican.com

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TO LEARN MORE

For more information on weight-loss surgery and the Adirondack Medical Center's Bariatric Program, visit the hospital's website at www.amccares.org, email the program at bariatrics@amccares.org, or call 897-2531.