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The Adjustable Weight-Loss Surgery

November 22, 2004, 5:25 PM by Jaine Andrews

The Adjustable Weight-Loss Surgery

More than 100-thousand morbidly obese people had gastric bypass surgery last year. That number is expected to grow this year. But the options open to patients aren't just gastric bypass surgery. There is another option available, known as gastric banding. While it isn't an option for the 9 million people in this country who are severely obese, it is a safer option for 60-million others.

As a registered nurse, Diane Wilson, saw the results of gastric bypass surgery firsthand. And even though she had been battling her weight all her life, she knew she didn't like what she saw. Wilson says, " I just was not comfortable with changing the way my body worked. It's a very drastic surgery and I was just real nervous about it." So, she lost weight the old-fashioned way. Wilson says, " I would say I'm an expert at losing weight. I lost 120 pounds once on Weight Watchers. And, you know, several different times, I've lost 80 pounds. It's the keeping it off that's the trouble."

A procedure known as "gastric banding", appeared to offer a lasting solution. During the operation, a hollow plastic band is placed around the top of the stomach, creating a small pouch which only holds a small amount of food at a time. A narrow passage to the rest of the stomach, can be made bigger or smaller by adjusting the amount of saline solution in the band. Sioux Valley Clinic-Surgical Associate's Dr. Peter O'Brien says, " With Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding, the risk of leakage is virtually eliminated and because of that factor makes banding a safer surgical procedure."

Some estimates say as much as ten times safer. It's also cheaper than traditional gastric bypass. But because it's a newer procedure, it is not always covered by insurance. Wilson, in fact struggled to get coverage, but felt it was worth the fight. She says, " I felt more comfortable with this."

It took about a year for Wilson to get her insurance company to cover her gastric banding surgery; after convincing her insurance company the operation was a medical necessity.She had the procedure nearly six months ago. In our next HealthBeat, we'll take you inside the treatment room to show you what's involved in adjusting the gastric band to meet a patient's need.

More Information on Gastric Banding Surgery

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