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Celebrating Two Decades of Weight Loss Surgery

Celebrating Two Decades of Weight Loss Surgery

January 27, 2023 Posted in: Weight Loss Surgery  4 minute read time


On April 19, 2002, surgeons performed the first bariatric surgery at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East. Since then, they’ve helped more than 8,500 people lose weight and improve their health.

Bariatric Surgery Today

In recent years, improvements in surgical techniques have led to more successful weight loss procedures with shorter recoveries. As a result, more people considered clinically obese have been able to take control of their health and improve their quality of life.

“Most weight loss surgery stories aren’t about the number of pounds lost,” said Karen M. Hillenmeyer, PA-C, director of bariatric surgery at Saint Joseph East. “They’re about patients coming off insulin and regaining normal cardiac function.”

A part of the Center for Weight Loss Surgery since day one, Hillenmeyer has witnessed many success stories and looks forward to the stories that are yet to be told.

A Transforming Experience

For the right person, bariatric surgery can be life-changing. That change is easier thanks to surgical innovation. Many surgeries are less invasive than before, and weight loss surgery is no exception.

Surgeons no longer operate through large incisions on every patient but can perform entire procedures through incisions the size of buttonholes. A growing number of surgeries also take place with robotic assistance for increased precision, faster recovery and less scarring. Patients are able to get out of the hospital and back to life faster than ever.

“Our patients often come out of the operating room saying they already feel better,” Hillenmeyer said.

When the Center for Weight Loss Surgery opened, patients needed to remain hospitalized for four to five days. Today, most patients can return home within 24 hours. Patients today also stop taking pain medication two days after the procedure, and most return to work within a week.

Thanks to surgical advances, weight loss surgery is very safe. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, weight loss surgery is as safe or safer than gallbladder and knee replacement surgeries.

The Face of Success

After her procedure at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery in 2002, Diane Mastin lost 240 pounds. Over the next 20 years, the Lexington resident kept all but 32 of them off.

Her life-changing result didn’t come easily. She had to work at it.

“People need to realize this is not a once-and-done surgery,” she said. “You have to be committed for life … your vitamins, your eating, the whole regimen.”

While Mastin’s success is due in large part to her own effort and commitment, she said the support she received from the weight loss team was equally important.

The Center for Weight Loss Surgery’s experienced multidisciplinary team is focused exclusively on weight loss. The program has a dedicated dietitian, exercise physiologist, nurses, insurance specialists, physician assistant and surgeons who specialize exclusively in the treatment of obesity and related diseases.

Losing Weight, Gaining Life

It’s easy to see why patients are grateful. Weight loss surgery does more than improve quality of life. The average patient loses 50% to 75% of their excess weight in the first year, and in time, most overcome Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

“We’ve seen the thrill in patients’ eyes when they can finally do something they couldn’t for years,” Hillenmeyer said. “They run marathons, scuba dive and ride roller coasters. Happy tears are shed every day in our Center.”

Are You a Candidate?

To qualify for weight loss surgery, you must have a BMI of 40 or higher and be more than 100 pounds overweight, or have a BMI of 35 or higher and one or more obesity-related conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

Know Your Options

Choosing the right weight loss surgery procedure depends on many factors that you and your surgeon would discuss. The Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East offers the following options:         

  • Gastric bypass. The surgeon creates a walnut-sized pouch at the top of your stomach and attaches the small intestine to this pouch, bypassing the rest of your stomach. The smaller pouch has less room to hold food, so you feel full more quickly and eat less than you did before surgery. As a result, you consume fewer calories. It also affects how your body absorbs the calories you consume, which aids in weight loss.         
  • Sleeve gastrectomy. In this procedure, the surgeon removes 80% of your stomach, leaving behind a banana-shaped tube. Your smaller stomach holds less, so you eat and drink less and, thus, consume fewer calories. This procedure also impacts production of hunger hormones, so you don’t feel as hungry.

Talk with the Center for Weight Loss Surgery team to determine which procedure is right for you, and watch a free, online weight loss surgery seminar to learn more.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 print edition of Spirit of Health.

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