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Low-risk alternative is available for weight loss

Ventura County Star
Sunday, 10/23/2005
by Helmuth T. Billy, M.D.

Unlike the better-known and permanent gastricbypass surgery, LAP-BAND helps patients lose weight by placing an adjustable band around the upper part of the stomach to reduce its capacity and restrict how much food can be consumed. Surgeons use tiny, laparoscopic incisions, rather than a large incision, to insert the inflatable silicone band. LAP-BAND is unique in that the band can be removed or adjusted at any time to alter the rate of weight loss.

Many adults who have been obese for most or all of their lives are now turning to surgery as their last chance to lose weight permanently. The number of surgery patients will only increase in the future as obesity continues to become a greater problem across America.

As with any surgery, there are risks, as noted by a recent study of Medicare patients that suggests the death rates from obesity surgery are higher than people might have thought. The risk was found to be the highest among patients aged 75 I and older.

As a surgeon who has helped hundreds of patients lose weight permanently, a few thoughts come to mind. Patients who seek weight-loss surgery have already failed multiple attempts at diet and exercise programs, with poor long-term results. For them, to remain severely overweight is riskier than doing nothing. Surgery, reserved as a lastresort option, may be the way to lmprove the health and longevity of obese individuals.

People who are obese suffer from ;everallife-threatening health problems, social stigmatization and liscrimination at work. Obesity is the second-leading cause of preventable and premature death in the United States, according to the American Obesity Association (http://www. obesity.org); Approximately 127 million American adults are overweight, 60 million are obese, and 9 million are severely obese. They suffer from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, impaired mobility, joint problems and other illnesses that can shave years off someone's life.

That said, as more overweight people seek surgery to lose weight, the general public should be informed about a new, low-risk surgical alternative now available. The surgery is called the LAP-BAND System, and it is the only reversible and adjustable surgical weight-loss procedure available in the U.S.

Unlike the better-known and permanent gastric-bypass surgery, LAP-BAND helps patients lose weight by placing an adjustable band around the upper part of the stomach to reduce its capacity and restrict how much food can be consumed. Surgeons use tiny, laparoscopic incisions, rather than a large incision, to insert the inflatable silicone band.

LAP-BAND is unique in that the band can be removed or adjusted at any time to alter the rate of weight loss. For example, pregnant women can have their band expanded to accommodate the growing fetus, while patients who aren't experiencing significant weight loss can have their bands tightened. There is no cutting, stapling or stomach re-routing, and patients usually go home from the hospital the day after surgery.

The LAP-BAND System is an especially good choice for older patients seeking a low-risk, minimally invasive surgical alternative. It's less surgery and has potentially the same results as gastric bypass.

Anyone considering weight-loss surgery should research their options and discuss them with their doctor. Patients also must be dedicated to making lifestyle changes that will support permanent weight loss. Selecting an experienced surgeon and dedicated hospital is particularly important to achieving a good outcome.

Surgery can change a person's life. For the thousands of previously overweight or obese people who have had surgery, this procedure has given them a new life, where all other methods had failed.

—Helmuth T. Billy, M.D., is a leading bariatric surgeon, and a member of the teaching faculty for Inamed Corp., the LAP-BAND's manufacturer. He has an office in Ventura.

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