Doctors say weight loss procedure is painless, doesn't leave marks

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on January 25, 2011 at 5:31 PM

NEW ORLEANS – Beginning Jan. 1, people who have 50 to 100 pounds to lose will be able to lose weight through a new procedure. It is a procedure tested this year on the Northshore on patients who were among the first in the world to try it.

At only 5 feet 1 inches tall, Cindy Babylon fought her weight that got very close to 200 pounds.

"I'd go on pills, take the pills loose a little with, do the shots, everything – but it still wouldn't stay off. I got to a point where I got so big I tried and tried on my own and couldn't do it," said Babylon, who lives in Carriere, Mississippi.

Just shy of 6 feet tall, Clyde Harper hit 265 pounds and became a diabetic.

"That's my pride and joy, my family. I wanted to make a change. My kids are always out there doing something and I really hadn't,  I'd go out there but I'm not out there as long as I need to be or should be," said Harper, who lives in Loranger.

That's when both Babylon, 54, and Harper, 32,  learned that they were among the first 27 people in the world who qualified for a new weight-loss procedure.

In eight months, Babylon is down 36 pounds.

"I lost 15 pounds right away, and that was pretty normal," said Babylon. "Then 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." 

In seven months, Harper is down 60 pounds. His diabetes is gone.

"It's easier just to get up, go around motivated, easier to get motivated just to do anything," said Harper.

What Babylon and Harper did is unlike anything you've seen before. It is bariatric surgery, but unlike gastric bypass or the gastric sleeve surgery, your stomach is never cut down to a smaller size. And unlike the LAP-BAND, no ring is implanted around your stomach to squeeze it in.

"You can now do an operation that is incision-less, painless, essentially has had no complications, and you go back to work in a day and a half and you get the same results," said Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Michael Thomas, who is the site investigator for the POSE surgery.

It's called POSE, short for primary obesity surgery endoscopic. And the reason there is no cutting is a special long tubular instrument.

While you're under anesthesia, doctors maneuver it through the mouth and down the esophagus into the stomach. Through the four openings at the end, a camera and series of special tools are threaded down the big tube. Once they are in the stomach, the tools grab and fold stomach tissue. Using special mesh plugs, a dozen or so places in the stomach are permanently pinched together, like the folds or gathers when you're smocking material or a dress. The result is a smaller stomach that holds less food.
But what seems to be working with this new procedure is something else. The doctors alter the part of the stomach that is very spongy and stretches easily. This seems to interrupt very powerful hormones that would normally send hunger signals to the brain to keep you eating.

"The reason diets fail long term is hunger is a very strong force. These hunger hormones really affect you, nothing emotional about it, pure hormones," said Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Tom Lavin.

Surgical Specialists of Louisiana in Covington was one of only a few sites in the country to test this new technique. Of the first 27 patients in the world, doctors Thomas and Lavin performed the most POSE procedures, nine in all. And while there are no long term studies or results, so far they find it very effective.

"The safety of this compared to any other intervention for weight loss is phenomenal," Thomas said.  "We are hoping that we will find that the perioperative complications or whatever aspect, either short term or long term, are as safe as diet and exercise, maybe even safer."

"The biggest thing we found was our patients had dramatically decreased hunger and capacity immediately after surgery and it is sustained at nine months,” Lavin said. “So for us, that was what we wanted to hear.”

Patients in the test phase see a nutritionist for food counseling and know they must exercise. Babylon said her weight loss will lower the risk of her breast cancer returning and getting heart disease which runs in her family. She said she does not get hungry, eating only a third of what she used to eat.

"You get full quicker. You eat less and you have that fullness and you really don't have to eat as much as I used to eat like a pig," Babylon said with a laugh.

Harper never wants to be on diabetes medication again.

"It's gone now. It ain't coming back, ain't coming back," said Harper with a big smile.

It has not been determined how much this procedure will cost, but other bariatric surgeries run between $14,000 and $19,000. Patients need to be on vitamin supplements to make sure all the nutrients are absorbed into the system.

For more information, call toll free 1-877-691-3001 or visit http://www.whyweight.com
 

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