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Bariatric Surgeries Now Being Performed at Washington Health System
By Vanessa Orr

Now that winter is finally over, it’s time to consider shedding some of those excess clothes—as well as those excess pounds. Beginning this year, Washington Health System has begun offering gastric bypass surgery as well as sleeve gastrectomy and adjustable lap banding.

These surgeries are being performed by Geoffrey H. Wilcox, M.D., FACS, metabolic and bariatric surgery director at Heritage Valley Sewickley, and Michael D. Felix, M.D., FACS, metabolic and bariatric surgery director at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Washington Health System, and St. Clair Hospital.

“Bariatric surgery is recommended for those patients who are technically obese, which is defined by the government as having a BMI (body mass index) of greater than 40,” explained Dr. Wilcox, who added that most patients they see are approximately 100 pounds or more overweight. “Candidates might also have a BMI between 35 and 40 with co-morbidities and health problems such as sleep apnea, hypertension and diabetes.

“The main reason to have bariatric surgery is to get healthy; almost all of the patients we see suffer from other conditions including degenerative joint disease and diabetes,” he added. “Within the first month after the surgery, patients report having more energy, are no longer short of breath, and are able to do things like walk up the stairs again,” he added. “Within six months, many of them are able to stop taking their medications and they report that their knees no longer hurt.” On average, a person who has had gastric bypass surgery loses eight to 12 pounds a month during the first year.

Candidates at Washington Health System can choose from three different types of bariatric surgery. “Gastric bypass surgery has the most staying power and its data is the most reproducible,” said Dr. Wilcox. “Patients will lose approximately 70 percent of their excess weight, though some lose more. Sleeve gastrectomy is gaining in popularity, but I think that’s mainly because it doesn’t require as much experience on the part of the surgeon to perform this operation, so more of them are being done. To do gastric bypass laparoscopically takes a lot more training.”
Dr. Wilcox only recommends adjustable lap band for patients who are not candidates for either of the other surgeries because the weight loss is not as predictable. Both sleeve gastrectomies and gastric bypass surgeries work by limiting the amount of food a person can eat, though gastric bypass also has a malabsorption component which means that the body is not absorbing certain sugars, fats, proteins or vitamins.

While there are few surgical risks to gastric bypass, there are many benefits. “We’ve had patients who were taking four or five pills a day to treat their diabetes, and by the time they left the hospital, they didn’t need to take any medications,” said Dr. Wilcox. Most patients spend two days in the hospital after the surgery with 95 percent able to go home on the second day.

To learn more about bariatric surgery at Washington Health System, visit www.hopebariatrics.com to watch an online seminar or call (412) 741-8862.

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