Weight loss surgery has no incisions

March 13, 2009 7:32:20 PM PDT
Surgeons at UCSF have begun testing a new treatment for obesity. It works something like gastric banding on the stomach, with one significant difference -- there are no incisions.

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"My knees are bothering me my hip is bothering me, and I like to be active but I'm finding my activity is slowed down by my weight," says Carol McLaughlin, a weight loss patient.

McLaughlin is now hoping an experimental procedure will help her lose as much as 60 pounds. In an operating room at UCSF, associate professor of surgery Stanley Rogers, M.D., is getting ready for a procedure that allows him to staple McLaughlin's stomach, without cutting through her abdomen. Instead, of a scalpel he will use a flexible device, that's inserted orally.

"So it goes through the mouth, and esophagus. We use special stapling devices that are introduced through the mouth that allow us to create a gastric sleeve that is similar to what we use for gastric bypass," says Rogers.

An endoscopic camera helps the surgeon guide the tools, once they reach the stomach. An animation, provided by the manufacturer, shows how a narrow pouch is created from the stomach, then stapled into place. The effect is similar to gastric banding with the new small pouch catching food as it enters the stomach.

"You eat a lot less, take about three bites and you're done," says Gretchen Ball, a weight loss patient.

Ball knows this first hand. She weighed more than 300 pounds when she had the surgery in January.

"It's been just over Six weeks, I've lost 30 pounds," said Ball.

Her long term vision is to lose another 70 pounds, but researchers say this non-invasive technique is less aggressive than the traditional obesity surgery and produces slightly less dramatic results.

"What we've seen in the current results is that people will lose about 40-percent of their excess body weight," says Rogers.

Still, he says one of the biggest advantages is a much quicker recovery time. Patients like McLaughlin will typically return to work in a matter of days, without the hospital stay and the weeks of recovery that follow traditional surgery.

"This new generation of procedures is performed without incisions using an endoscope to guide the procedures and allow the procedures to proceed with less invasion, allowing a quicker recovery, earlier return to work, and an earlier return to a normal life," says Rogers.

A quick note about the clinical trial. ABC7 was asked to leave the operating room before the surgical part of McLaughlin's procedure actually took place. That's because a group of patients will not receive the stapling procedure until later. That's so researchers can compare the results between the two groups. McLaughlin won't find out if she received the procedure until the study is complete. If she didn't, she would then receive it.

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