Once upon a time, weight-loss surgery was considered a very radical choice. Researchers didn’t know much about the success or long-term safety of this procedure —also known as bariatric surgery. But that’s all changed: More and more people have had the surgery, and the benefits are nothing short of remarkable.
Mitchell Roslin, MD, Director of Bariatric Surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital, points out that there are actually several different procedures that fall under the heading of bariatric surgery. “At Northern Westchester Hospital,” says Dr. Roslin, “our team is performing advanced minimally invasive surgical procedures, including sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch procedures, that go beyond the benefits provided by traditional gastric bypass and banding procedures.”
What kind of benefits? Take the example of Dr. Roslin’s patient Jassira. When she became a patient of Dr. Roslin’s in 2006, she weighed about 340 pounds and was suffering from diabetes — even though she had undergone a bariatric procedure called Lap-Band surgery in California. Jassira and her husband had also been trying to have children, with no success. Dr. Roslin removed the band and performed duodenal-switch surgery. Jassira began to quickly shed pounds and within a short time her diabetes symptoms abated. But the biggest surprise was that she became pregnant. Now Jassira weighs 145 pounds and is the proud mother of two healthy children.
“Through weight reduction, sex hormone levels can return to normal and increase fertility,” says Dr. Roslin. In fact, research shows that pregnancy may actually be safer following weight-loss surgery. There’s lower risk of gestational diabetes — a risk for obese women — and the children are less likely to suffer health problems.
Another benefit to weight-loss surgery is a much sounder night’s sleep. Obesity raises the risk for sleep apnea, a condition in which a person’s airway actually collapses during sleep, stopping breathing for long periods. Sleep apnea — often characterized by loud snoring — can raise blood pressure along with the risk of heart disease and stroke. And there’s also the concern of daytime sleepiness, which can interfere with work productivity and make driving very hazardous. However, if you lose just 10 percent of your total weight, says Dr. Roslin, and you can cut the severity of sleep apnea by half. With the dramatic weight loss achievable through bariatric surgery, you may actually cure this problem.
As researchers study more bariatric patients, the news gets better: The New England Journal of Medicine has published studies demonstrating that bariatric surgery is more effective than exercise, dieting, and even drugs in controlling high blood sugar due to diabetes, reducing blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease, and generally increasing overall health in the obese. For obese patients who haven’t had success with dieting and exercise, bariatric surgery may be their healthiest option.