Patient Success Stories

Patient Profile: Bariatric/Gastric Bypass

Weight management program leads to long-term success

Throughout the 1990s, Mary Beth Bencic of Everett, a 43-year-old middle-school teacher for emotionally disturbed boys, weighed as much as 350 pounds.

In addition to asthma and sleep apnea, I also developed blood clots and cellulitis," she recalled. "After a heart attack that led to two surgeries in 1999, I knew I had to resolve my weight problem."

Her cardiologist suggested gastric bypass surgery, also known as bariatric surgery. Bencic met with Sheldon Randall, MD, director of the weight management program at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and nationally recognized gastric bypass surgeon. Dr. Randall began performing this now popular type of surgery more than 20 years ago.

"I wish someone had told me about the program ten years ago," Bencic said, who has lost more than 100 pounds since 2001. "Other weight-loss programs just didn't work. Now, the sleep apnea is gone, I don't need cholesterol medication, and I can walk upstairs without losing my breath."

Five to ten million people in the United States are morbidly obese-defined as100 pounds or more overweight or having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater. Ninety-five percent of morbidly obese people who lose weight through traditional medically managed programs ultimately regain it.

According to Dr. Randall, "Many factors contribute to obesity. For most of thispopulation, there is no effective medical treatment."

Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery

The most common and effective surgical treatment for obesity is called Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery. It entails creating a small pouch at the top of the stomach that is attached to the lower section of the small intestine.

The result allows food to bypass the lower part of the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine, through which most calories are absorbed. Basically, the stomach gets smaller (resulting in feeling full faster) and the body absorbs fewer calories. Weight loss, medical conditions and nutrient levels are monitored closely following the surgery.

Those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater, and those with a BMI of 35 or greater accompanied by an obesity-related condition-such as high blood pressure, diabetes, joint disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, polycystic ovaries, urinary stress incontinence and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)- may be good candidates.

Eighty percent of patients who undergo surgical treatment for obesity, and make a life-long commitment to diet and exercise, lose 65 to 70 percent of their excess weight over a period of one to two years.

Multidisciplinary team offers knowledge and tools

Through this medically supervised, comprehensive weight-loss program, an experienced team of surgeons, physicians, clinical nurses, nutritionists and behavioral health professionals works with morbidly obese patients to provide evaluation, education, treatment and support.

Dr. Randall explained, "Our philosophy is to provide the knowledge and tools people need to maintain a healthy weight over the course of a lifetime."

Long-term benefits

Following gastric bypass surgery, existing medical conditions improve significantly. For example:

  • 80 percent no longer require insulin for diabetes
  • 100 percent require less diabetes medication
  • 65 percent no longer require blood pressure medication
  • Sleep apnea is cured for most
  • Joint replacement is possible when it previously was prohibited by excess weight
  • Exercise tolerance is improved, energy level is heightened and body image is greatly enhanced.

For Bencic, the program has improved quality of life dramatically.

"The biggest change is how I feel about myself," she said. "I'm more self-confident and have more self-esteem. I'm also able to do things most people take for granted, like cross my legs, wear clothes that fit, sit on an airplane, work out and play on the floor with children. Most importantly, I'm healthy."

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