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Weight-loss surgery takes less time, is less invasive

December 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
It can improve life expectancy, resolve diabetes and cut the risk of coronary disease in half. Bariatric surgery can help people take control of their weight and their lives. But surgery can be scary. There's a new technique that's giving patients a less-invasive option.

"We're not removing anything," said bariatric surgeon Dr. Stacy Brethauer, describing gastric plication surgery. "We're simply enfolding the stomach on itself."

The stomach's sutured and becomes tubular. Its volume is reduced by 80 percent, so patients can eat less and still feel full.

The operation is less invasive than gastric bypass or a gastric-sleeve procedures. They involve removing a part of the stomach or re-routing the intestines.

"We've seen overall less risk with this operation than we have with some of the other procedures that we do," said Brethauer.

While still investigational, it could be used to augment a Lap-Band, a removable device to aid weight loss. There's also a possibility gastric plication could be undone.

"So that you can convert it to another procedure if you needed to," said Brethauer.

Brethauer says gastric plication can help get rid of 50 to 55 percent of excess weight. That's more than the Lap-Band, but less than the gastric-sleeve or bypass surgeries, and if your body-mass index is over 50, this may not be right for you.

"So most people who want to lose somewhere between 50 and 100 pounds are going to do quite well with this operation," said Brethauer.

Gastric plication patients are out of the hospital in one to two days.

Because the surgery is still investigational, insurance doesn't cover it. It can cost between $15,000 and $22,000.