Columbia St. Mary's Launches Multidisciplinary Bariatric Center

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Columbia St. Mary’s is pleased to announce the opening of a multi-disciplinary Bariatric Center to help obese people lose weight and improve their health. The Center is one of just a few in the area to use a minimally invasive approach to this type of surgery.

The Bariatric Center, which opened in September at Columbia St. Mary’s Columbia Campus, includes an area that has been remodeled to accommodate the special needs of bariatric patients.

The surgery that is performed is called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery whereby a small stomach pouch is created and the pouch is connected to a shorter length of the small intestine. This helps people lose weight in two ways:

  1. The smaller pouch encourages people to eat smaller amounts of food.
  2. Because part of the stomach and part of the small intestine are “bypassed” in the digestive process, fewer nutrients and calories are absorbed.

“The regular stomach is the size of a melon, and the surgery reduces it to the size of an egg,” said laparoscopic surgeon Dr. Joseph Regan, medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Center at Columbia St. Mary’s. Dr. Regan recently completed a fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City where he specialized in laparoscopic surgery and bariatric surgery.

Dr. Regan is one of only two surgeons in the greater Milwaukee area that is fellowship trained in laparoscopic bariatric surgery. This is one more example of Columbia St. Mary’s leading advancements in minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Regan leads a team of other surgeons at Columbia St. Mary’s who also perform bariatric surgery.

While Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery has been around for many years, this surgery now can be performed laparoscopically, or through a minimally invasive approach. With laparoscopy, surgery is performed through a few small incisions in the abdomen. The surgeon uses the incisions to insert a laparoscope, a small telescope connected to a tiny video camera. The camera transmits a picture to a video monitor that the surgeon uses to guide the instruments during the surgery.

The advantages to laparoscopic techniques in gastric bypass operations are similar to those for other laparoscopic surgeries. These benefits include a shorter recovery time, an earlier return to normal activities, and fewer wound complications including infections, hernias and dehiscences (wound re-openings), according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Other advantages include less pain after the surgery, a shorter hospital stay, and less scarring.

But the new laparoscopic techniques involved at Columbia St. Mary’s are only part of the picture. The surgeries are complemented by an array of support and care services. Specialists in nutrition, psychiatry, gastroenterology, sleep medicine, rehabilitation, and endocrinology work together to help patients in their recovery. The nursing staff has received training to care for the unique needs of bariatric patients after surgery.

“I look forward to great things here,” Dr. Regan said. “There is a tremendous amount of support at Columbia St. Mary’s for this multi-disciplinary program. That’s why I’m so excited about it. They have made this a team approach—a bariatric center, not just a couple of surgeons who are doing bariatric surgery. This is the safest and most comprehensive way to undergo bariatric surgery.”

After experiencing a gastric bypass, people have to significantly change their lifestyles. Since their stomach size has been reduced greatly, they no longer can eat the same amounts of food, nor can they eat concentrated sweets, which their bodies will no longer tolerate. They also must take calcium and vitamin supplements for the rest of their lives. “Since obesity is a life-long problem, treatment has to be life-long as well,” Dr. Regan said.

“This is part of a life-changing event,” Dr. Regan said. “This is all about a new person. It’s a whole way of life that changes. The operation is just part of that change.”

Gastric bypass is a major surgery, and it is not for everyone who wants to lose weight. The guidelines for surgery are that a person has a body mass index* of 40 or greater, or a person who has a body mass index of 35-40 and has severe health problems that are associated with being overweight. These problems can include diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, heart disease, and degenerative joint disease. Typically, patients are less than 60 years old and over 18 years of age, but there are some exceptions to this rule, Dr. Regan said. Patients also must have tried other weight loss programs.

The results of the surgery are usually very positive, with patients losing 60% to 80% of their excess weight and keeping it off long-term. The surgery also results in a decrease or complete improvement of other obesity-related problems or co-morbidities in the majority of patients.

The positive results of the surgery also aren’t limited to health issues. “This really improves people’s outlook on their lives and on what they are able to achieve,” Dr. Regan said. “The majority of patients are satisfied with the results. Things like putting on a seatbelt in the car or being able to sit in an airplane seat are things that we take for granted, and for them, they are things they can only dream of.”

For more information contact the Bariatric Center at 414-961-3420.



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