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Weight loss surgery without a scar

March 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The number of obese people has now surpassed the number of overweight people in the United States. Fighting this epidemic is on the forefront in the medical world. Now, a new, less-invasive procedure may give people who need to lose weight new hope. Veronica Mahaffey was looking for a clean break.

"I lost 12 pounds in the first week," said Mahaffey.

It's the first time in her life she ever lost so much weight, so fast.

"I was just on no carbs at all. I just finished that," said Mahaffey. "I hate diet pills. I did South Beach and Optifast."

At her heaviest she was 215 lbs. Mahaffey became one of the first to take part in the POSE clinical trial at U.C. San Diego. The idea behind it is similar to other weight loss surgeries such as the lap-band -- making the stomach smaller so they feel full. But there is a difference with this new procedure.

"This surgery can be done completely endoscopically. That's down the mouth without any incisions at all," said Garth Jacobsen, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of California, San Diego.

Minimally invasive, Dr. Jacobsen threads the endoscope down the throat and into the stomach. He then sutures the top part of the stomach shut, making it smaller by about one-third.

"We're taking the portion of the stomach that stretches the most and eliminating the ability for it to stretch," said Dr. Jacobsen.

The POSE procedure is first being tested on patients who need to lose 30 to 50 pounds, have a BMI of 28 to 33, and have a history of being overweight or obese for two or more years. Mahaffey went home the next day, but her diet was strict.

"I can eat three bites, and then I'm done," said Mahaffey.

At 145 pounds, Veronica is happy with her weight, which has impacted the entire family. And she hopes to keep adding up the weight lost.

While doctors hope the sutures will hold for a lifetime, re-stretching is possible and long term outcomes are not yet known.

Web Extra Information:

BACKGROUND:

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. Both terms mean a person's weight is greater than what's considered healthy for his or her height. You are considered normal weight if you have a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. You are considered overweight if you have a BMI between 25 and 29.9. You are considered obese if you have a BMI of 30 or greater.

RISING OBESITY?

In 2009, the NIH released a study showing that, for the first time, the number of obese people in the United States surpassed the number of Americans who are overweight. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 34 percent of Americans are obese compared to 32.7 percent who are overweight. About 6 percent of Americans are considered "extremely" obese. About 72 million people were considered obese in the government health study, which took place between 2005 and 2006.

The obesity rate in America has more than doubled since 1980, but the number of overweight people has remained stable. Being obese increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your weight can delay or prevent some of these diseases.

POSE CLINICAL TRIAL:

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center are conducting a new clinical trial for patients who need to lose weight. "Pose" stands for primary obesity surgery endolumenal. It's similar to other weight loss surgery techniques that aim to make the stomach smaller, but with this procedure, doctors do not have to make any incisions. The entire surgery is done endoscopically, which means surgeons place an endoscope down the throat to conduct the procedure.

Once the endoscope enters the stomach, surgeons suture the top part of the stomach shut, making it smaller by about one-third. With a reduced stomach size, patients feel fuller sooner and are less likely to overeat.

The one-hour procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. The most common side effect is a sore throat. This procedure is first being tested on patients who need to lose between 30 and 50 pounds, have a BMI of 28 to 33, and have a history of being overweight or obese for two or more years. "We're not looking for an easy out for patients," Garth Jacobsen, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of California, San Diego, told Ivanhoe. "We still want them to be motivated and eat well."

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