If you’re one of the many people struggling with excess weight or obesity, a new bariatrics program at Alton Memorial Hospital offers renewed hope so you can achieve your long-term health goals and live a healthy, active life.
Dr. Matt Musielak, a general surgeon on staff at AMH, is offering sleeve gastrectomies for patients who meet certain guidelines, such as a Body Mass Index of more than 40. But the surgical procedure is just part of a lengthy process that also include visits with a dietitian as well as a mental health professional to make sure all the patient’s needs are met.
“We certainly have a lot of interest in doing this,” Dr. Musielak said. “Most insurance companies require six to nine months before the surgery is done. And the work with the dietitian and mental health professional t is extremely valuable, as this is a big commitment on the patient’s part. And this usually requires the patient to be seen every month leading up to the procedure by his or her primary care physician or by the surgeon.”
Dr. Musielak (left) said that merely dropping excess weight is not the primary goal of the program.
“This will help them with co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes,” he said. “The obesity and those accompanying conditions, are depriving people of their health and quality of life.”
The bariatrics program is designed to reset the amount of food and energy stored in the body. By resetting this trigger, the body will start getting rid of excess fat instead of preserving it. The end result is a substantial weight loss and resolution to other common problems associated with obesity.
The surgical procedure, done laparoscopically, will be a sleeve gastrectomy, which sleeves off 80 percent of the stomach, transforming the stomach from a football shape to one more resembling a banana.
“This results in the ability to consume much smaller meals and, more importantly, resets the fat storage set point at a much lower level,” Dr. Musielak said. “They are on a bariatric clear liquid diet for two weeks before the surgery.
“But so much of it is their frame of mind as well as maintaining a good diet. That’s why the dietitian and mental health professional are a big part of this. If patients just think the surgery itself will take care of everything, they will not succeed. As the program progresses, we would also hope to have a support group where these patients can share things like how food tastes different after the procedure.”
Kate Zimmerman, a dietitian with Morrison Food & Nutrition at AMH, is ready to help.
“Proper nutrition is critical for success when undergoing this significant lifestyle change,” she said. “We will provide each patient with individualized guidance to meet their long-term goals.”
The surgery typically takes about two hours and patients usually remain at the hospital for two days. For the next several weeks, eating is advanced in a strict process that builds from a liquid diet to solid food to allow for proper healing of the stomach. Eating healthy and performing moderate exercise are very important to the success of the surgery.
There will be follow-up appointments during the next year with Dr. Musielak at regular intervals to ensure that your weight loss is proceeding as planned and there are no complications.
“The biggest complaint after surgery is nausea,” Dr. Musielak said. “Some have difficulty swallowing because there is now nowhere for the stomach to expand. Retraining yourself to eat is very important, and smaller meals, but more of them per day, is good at first. That ramps up metabolism.
“This is a procedure that is needed in a lot of rural communities. So it’s good that we can offer this in Alton for some people who might not want to go over to St. Louis for it. If we can help them not have to do that, it’s a big help.”