According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. For those who struggle with obesity, bariatric weight loss surgery can be a According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. For those who struggle with obesity, bariatric weight loss surgery can be a path to success. Awarded a 2018 Women’s Choice Award as one of America’s best hospitals for bariatric surgery, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) prides itself on treating the whole patient and not simply the condition of obesity.
Dr. Joseph Caruana, Director of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Erie County Medical Center, explains how bariatric surgery changes the lives of those struggling with weight loss, diabetes, or cardiovascular conditions that stem from obesity.
Candidates for bariatric surgery range from those who are at least one hundred pounds overweight to obese individuals who struggle with diabetes, sleep apnea, or cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension. While this surgery can be seen as a last resort, Dr. Caruana hopes patients with diabetes and other medical conditions will consider this surgery before those conditions become desperate. Dr. Caruana says candidates need to show they have tried to keep the weight off but were unsuccessful. “Many of our patients have tremendous willpower and can lose twenty, forty, even one hundred pounds, but their body just fights them.”
Bariatric surgery works to alter the signals that go from an individual’s stomach to the brain. With multiple types of surgery available, it is important for the doctors to help patients determine the best course of treatment.
“We’ll try to understand all of the complex factors contributing to obesity. Many patients have a long history of trial and failure, discrimination, or bullying that just adds to their stress,” explains Dr. Caruana. “Surgeons have to meet the patients on their level and understand both the physical and psychological stakes to properly inform them for surgery.”
While there are other options for bariatric surgery like gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy is the most commonly performed procedure. “The surgery received this name, because we remove a good portion of the stomach and what remains looks like the sleeve of a coat or jacket,” states Dr. Caruana. “The removed portion impacts hormone signals that trigger hunger, eating, and other metabolism-related factors.”
The procedure requires a short recovery time of one or two days in the hospital, but most patients are up and walking the same day of surgery. After surgery, there are some adjustments patients need to make to their eating and drinking schedule.
These shifts can take time for individuals to become accustomed to, but according to Dr. Caruana, a majority of patients still recover quickly. The social and psychological pressures that often entice individuals to undergo this surgery continue to play a role in the healing process. Enlisting plenty of support and utilizing the services provided by ECMC ensures a successful outcome for patients.
“We offer dietary services, some exercise assistance, and a regularly scheduled visitation program to assist recovery,” says Dr. Caruana. “We are called ‘Synergy Bariatrics’ because we realize that a myriad of factors—not just the procedure itself—need to come together for the successful care of our patients.”