Dr. Dieter Pohl, FACS,
Director, Surgical Weight Loss Program
Roger Williams Medical Center
1. Is the growing number of overweight people impacting the overall health of society?
Weight gain is the root of many diseases. An overweight person faces an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, knee and back pain, arthritis and sleep apnea. These problems are often cared for with traditional treatments like medication or joint replacement surgery. All of this adds up to recurring cost and lost time for both patients and society in general. Excess weight can also cause other serious problems like a fatty liver, liver cirrhosis and even cancer.
2. At what point should an overweight person consider weight loss surgery?
The first step is to be honest about one’s own weight. Unfortunately, being overweight is almost the new normal. Many people don’t think they have a problem. The reality is, being overweight can lead to serious health issues. The best way to learn if a person is overweight is to find out their Body Mass Index (BMI). There are a number of readily available tools to find one’s BMI, including http://www.loseweightRI.com.
Weight loss surgery is for people whose BMI is higher than 40. Surgery is the best option for losing a good portion of that excess weight and more importantly, keeping it off for a long time. People with a BMI of only 35 accompanied by obesity-related medical problems, like diabetes, also qualify for surgery. Weight loss surgery treats the root of most medical problems. Most health insurance companies pay for weight loss surgery under these conditions.
3. What kind of surgery do you offer?
There are two surgeries available: Gastric Bypass and Sleeve Gastrectomy. Both are performed with minimally invasive techniques. In most cases, our patients stay in the hospital only one or two days. You can view more detailed descriptions and videos at our website: http://www.loseweightRI.com.
4. What are the positive impacts of surgery? Are there risks?
Following weight loss surgery, 100 percent of patients lose a significant amount of weight over the first year. That loss can total approximately one third of the patient’s body weight. Many patients maintain that weight loss for years. Statistics show that surgery is a more effective tool in keeping weight off than diet and lifestyle changes alone. The immediate risk of weight loss surgery is similar to that of gallbladder surgery. In the long term, there is a small risk of gastro-intestinal problems, vitamin deficiency, anemia and low blood sugar. Still, the long-term benefits of weight loss surgery far outweigh any risks.
Obesity can negatively affect everything in our body, from the head with increased migraines to the toes with higher rate of gout. Following surgery, many patients say that everything feels better. Their comments always have a similar tone: “Surgery gave me my life back,” “I feel better than I did in high school,” “I can find work or have a family life again,” or “My diabetes is gone, my acid reflux is gone. I don’t need knee replacement surgery or crutches or oxygen or an inhaler or all the medications I’ve been taking for years.”
For anyone considering this surgery, the simplest way to put it is this: Both your life expectancy and your quality of life will improve significantly following weight loss surgery.