Life-Changing or Life-Saving?
Transforming lives through healthy weight loss
For the first time in history, we face the potential that the human life expectancy will get shorter – due in large part to the disabling health effects of excessive weight. In the last ten years alone, the national rate of obesity has skyrocketed to nearly 33 percent of the population in many parts of the United States. While our lifestyles have become less active, our stress levels have increased and food has become more abundant. The result has been steadily increasing waistlines.
All that excess weight is impacting the life expectancy of our population. "Overall, there is a higher percentage of medical problems associated with obese individuals," says Peter Garza, MD, a board-certified surgeon at the Aurora Medical Center in Summit with expertise in performing laparoscopic bariatric surgery. The health complications associated with obesity include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, diabetes and even cancer.
The good news, however, is that serious weight issues can be successfully addressed for many people through weight-loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery. "Bariatric surgery is intended for individuals with serious weight problems – those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater," explains Thomas Chua, MD, medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Program at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and the first surgeon in Wisconsin to perform the LAP-BAND® procedure. "Those with a BMI of 35 to 40 may also be eligible if they have additional health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure."
It is important to recognize that weight-loss surgery is only one aspect of the process. Dr. Prewitt, who offers bariatric surgery at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and the Aurora Medical Centers in Hartford, Grafton and Summit, focuses on providing patients with all the tools they need to successfully lose weight. "It is not just surgery. It is a weight-loss program that involves lifestyle, emotional and dietary counseling, exercise recommendations and a complete support system. Dietary counseling helps patients develop life-long healthy eating strategies they can live with that improve their nutrition level. Not only do we see a decrease in patient triglyceride levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease, we are also seeing an increase in HDL levels - the 'good' cholesterol that can actually reverse heart disease."
Aurora's bariatric program provides patients a variety of surgical options ranging from minimally-invasive, reversible choices to permanent, more extensive techniques. Some of the procedures Aurora offers include:
- Adjustable Gastric Band which uses a silicone band to create a smaller section in the stomach. Digestion and absorption remains normal and the band can be adjusted or fully removed to reverse the procedure.
- Vertical Banded Gastroplasty (VBG) is a restrictive procedure in which the upper stomach is stapled and divided, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold. The outlet from the pouch is restricted by a non-adjustable band that create a feeling of fullness and decreases appetite.
- Gastric Sleeve which limits the amount of food a person can eat by reducing the size of the stomach. A portion of the stomach is removed, but digestion and absorption of nutrients follows a natural course that allows them to be absorbed into the body.
- Roux en Y Gastric Bypass which combines the restrictive technique of reducing the stomach size to create a quicker sense of fullness with a decreased absorption.
Patients often wonder if the bariatric surgery programs can help them lose weight without surgery, then why have the surgery. "One of the biggest differences between medical weight loss and surgical weight loss is in the longevity of the results," explains James Kemmerling, MD, FACS, a fellow of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and the medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Center at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. "We can help someone lose 100 pounds without surgery, through a very low calorie diet. However, most people will gain all the weight back within five years of going off the diet. Surgery, however, can provide lasting results for a lifetime."
To learn more about Aurora surgeons who offer bariatric surgery, select one of the doctors below.