NEW ORLEANS - As many as 75 people will be given a medical weight loss procedure completely free.
This latest technology means no cutting and patients are back to normal activities right away.
Medical Watch has followed the top surgeon on this procedure since it was created more than four years ago.
Back in 2009, Cindy Babylon and Clyde Harper were among the first in the world to have a new weight loss procedure, requiring no surgical cutting outside on their skin, or inside on their stomachs. In several months, Cindy was down 36 pounds and Clyde 60 pounds.
"It just kept coming off because your stomach is smaller. You're eating a third of what you are normally eating. I could have wolfed down a po-boy sandwich in nothing flat and still be hungry (before the procedure)," said Babylon in November of 2009.
"It's easier just to get up, go around motivated. Easier to get motivated just to do anything," said Harper in November 2009.
Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Thomas Lavin was one of the first to perform POSE, short for primary obesity surgery endolumenal. A special instrument goes down the throat to the stomach. Using a camera for guidance, the tool grabs and folds stomach tissue using tiny plugs to hold it together. Those folds or pleats become permanent so the stomach's about 40 percent smaller and can't hold as much food.
"First they feel the fullness sooner, theoretically and the food sits in the stomach longer. So they have longer periods without hunger," explained Dr. Lavin, founder of Surgical Specialists of Louisiana in Metairie and on the Northshore.
Experts say obesity is a complicated illness involving genetics, environment and many organs, including the way the brain is wired. Research shows that less than two percent of people who lose weight with just diet and exercise, can keep it off long term without some sort of medical intervention or weight loss procedure.
Evidence shows stomach surgery interrupts very powerful hunger hormones and peptides that signal to the brain driving you to eat. POSE seems to do the same, reducing cravings and even diabetes as well.
"The decrease hunger and cravings are the reason why people lose weight with any kind of bariatrics, but certainly with the POSE more than decrease capacity." said Dr. Lavin. He went on to say doctors discovered another benefit of altering the gut hormones after doing many of the procedures. "Later we found out that we would resolve diabetes and all these medical problems because of all the changing gut peptides. The procedure was done before they knew any of that and the results were seen. Before the patients lost one pound, their diabetes was much better."
Dr. Lavin has performed a few hundred POSE procedures, more than any other doctor. He says it's safe and patients are back to work and activities right away. And now with more advanced instruments, he's helped make the procedure better.
And now the FDA has a nationwide study at 11 sites, to gather scientific weight loss data. Everyone who qualifies will get the 30-minute procedure completely free.
The study, called The Essential Trial, is for men and women 22 to 60 years old who are very overweight, Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30-40. If your BMI is 30-35, you have to have another medical complication such as diabetes. high blood pressure or high blood lipid levels. You can't be on any weight loss medications and the doctors will follow you for two years so you must live within 50 miles of the clinical testing site.
Since this is a clinical trial, two-thirds of the patients will get the real POSE procedure right away. One-third will just get an endoscope. Patients will not know who got the procedure and who did not. At the end of the trial, those who did not get the procedure, will get the real one free, as long as they still qualify.
Patients are under anesthesia for the POSE procedure.