Eric Schlesinger, M.D., FACS, a board-certified bariatric surgeon and the medical director of the Bridges Center for Surgical Weight Management at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, breaks down some of the things you need to know about weight-loss surgery.
Who should consider it
Typically, a patient must be morbidly obese in order to qualify for weight-loss surgery. A person is considered morbidly obese if he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher and is at least 100 pounds overweight. A person with a BMI of 35 or higher with two or more serious health issues related to weight may also be a candidate.
Types of weight-loss surgeries
There are several different types of surgery for weight loss, including the adjustable gastric band, gastric bypass, vertical sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch procedures. For side-by-side comparisons of the procedures, visit bridgesaz.com/downloads/Bridges_TypesBariatricSurgery.pdf.
How to choose a surgeon
When you are considering a surgeon, you will want to ask what type of procedures he or she performs, if they are board-certified, and if the surgery will be performed in a designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence (COE) by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).
Risks of weight-loss surgery
Complications from bariatric surgery — such as wound infections, abdominal bleeding, staple/suture leakage, respiratory failure, pulmonary problems or other surgery-related issues — occur in less than five percent of the procedures performed. Longer-term negative affects of bariatric surgery can include such issues as ulcers, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, temporary hair thinning and symptomatic gallstones. Depending on the type of procedure, additional negative affects can include abdominal cramping, faintness and headaches. However, many of these risks can be eliminated and/or minimized with a proper nutritional diet and regular physical exercise.
Benefits of weight-loss surgery
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bariatric surgery is the only proven weight loss method for those suffering from morbid obesity (BMI of 40 or more). Obesity is a factor in many health issues and diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, male- and female-related cancers, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, depression and more. People that undergo weight loss surgery may find that obesity-related health conditions improve or are even eliminated as a result of the surgery. With a comprehensive program that provides life-long follow up, counseling and education, the resulting weight loss, and all of its benefits, can last a lifetime.
The costs of weight-loss surgery
Many insurance plans now cover bariatric surgery, especially if the patient has health issues related to weight. There is a complex authorization process, therefore it’s important to find a bariatric program, like the Bridges Center, that can help you with obtaining authorization.
For more information about weight-loss surgery, visit weightlossarizona.com.
Cutting the fat: Weight-loss surgical procedures help patients gain confidence while reclaiming their lives
For most people who battle their weight, there is an epiphanic moment that needs to happen before they make a healthy change that sticks.
“I was 27 years old and couldn’t keep up with my (three) children because I was overweight,” says 29-year-old Autumn Garvin. “I had no energy, and my family was suffering as a result. I had tried every diet and would lose some weight but always would gain it back — and then some. I was frustrated and needed to take control of my own life.”
One day, she suggested to her youngest son that they lay down for a nap before picking up her two older children from school.
“He said, ‘Mommy, don’t be lazy!’ ” Garvin recalls. “That moment was such a wakeup call for me. I would never want my kids to be hindered — or worse yet, embarrassed — by my weight problems.”
That was the trigger Garvin needed to do something about her lifelong struggle with weight. She underwent a laparoscopic gastric banding procedure, performed by Dr. Eric Schlesinger of Scottsdale — a board-certified bariatric surgeon and the medical director of the Bridges Center for Surgical Weight Management at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital. During surgery, Schlesinger placed an adjustable silicone band around the upper portion of Garvin’s stomach, creating a smaller upper stomach pouch that limits food intake.
Besides the adjustable gastric band, other surgical options available for weight loss include gastric bypass, vertical sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch procedures.
“Each of these procedures treats obesity a little differently,” Schlesinger says. “For example, the gastric band causes a person to feel full after eating less food than previously. Gastric bypass, vertical sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch have an additional effect on a person’s metabolism.”
Since having surgery, Garvin has lost 110 pounds (and counting), is able to keep up with her children, now ages 12, 9 and 7 years old, and is doing things she never thought would be possible.
“Last Thanksgiving, I walked and jogged a 5K race,” she says. “It means so much to me to be able to lead an active lifestyle and share that way of life with my family.”
But Garvin’s weight-loss accomplishment hasn’t been without its rough patches.
“The biggest hurdle with my weight loss journey was dealing with people who told me I was a cheater, and I didn’t understand how to ‘really’ lose weight,” she says. “It took some time for me to realize that it didn’t matter what everyone else thought — I was working hard, and it was paying off. Now, if people tell me I’m a cheater, I just say, ‘You’re right. I cheated being obese for the rest of my life by working hard to lose more than 100 pounds.’ ”
For more information about the weight-loss surgical options mentioned in this story, visit weightlossarizona.com.
Surgical Weight Loss Solutions at Tempe St. Luke’s
1492 S. Mill Ave., #201, Tempe