You could call it the belly bandwagon.
Belly band surgery is increasingly popular among obese patients.
Dr. Chris Cobourn, a general surgeon at The Surgical Weight Loss Centre in Mississauga, performs Lap-Band surgery, and watches as patients as heavy as 575 lbs lose weight and get healthy.
“They love their band. No one wants to be obese. They are incredibly frustrated and depressed and a lot of patients have low self-esteem. This gives them a simple, elegant solution and they are the happiest patients in the world,” says Dr. Cobourn.
“It’s very safe,” he adds, “We’ve done over 3,000 here with no major complications or deaths.”
Lap-Band surgery is not for folks who just want to lose 10 pounds. It’s for those with a BMI over 35 or a BMI over 30 coupled with medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea.
“It should be about improving one’s health. The goal is to induce significant weight loss and keep it off,” says Dr. Cobourn. The Centre has a clinic in Vancouver and hopes to open soon in Calgary and on the east coast.
Lap-band surgery is done laparoscopically, and takes about half an hour. The surgeon places an adjustable band around the upper stomach, which decreases the amount of food the stomach can hold. The band can then be adjusted through an access port just under the skin on the abdomen. People generally return to work after about four days.
The idea, says Dr. Cobourn, is to lose one or two pounds a week. When weight plateaus, the band gets tightened. If a female patient gets pregnant, the band can be loosened.
The procedure has been popular and successful, says Dr. Cobourn. “Only about 10 per cent of patients either didn’t lose 25 per cent of their body weight, or asked to have their band removed.”
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One patient's success
Tom Saridis, age 39, has lost an almost unfathomable 280 lbs – the weight of two smallish adults. In 2006, just before he had Lap-Band surgery, Saridis weighed a colossal 500 lbs. Now he weighs in at 220 lbs, and at 6-ft. tall, he’s delighted he can live a normal life.
When Saridis eats, he’s thinking about quality, not quantity.
“I used to look for the largest portion on the menu. I’d order a 30-ounce Porterhouse, even if it was tough, when all I need is a 4 oz filet.”
He believes in the Lap-Band procedure so passionately that soon after his surgery, he launched the Canadian Institute of Bariatric Options clinic in Toronto, which provides the surgery and the support needed afterward.
Patients who undergo Lap-Band surgery need to learn a new way of eating. Food has to be chewed carefully and eaten slowly, or they feel sick. Saridis had a great surgeon, but then wondered, “what’s next?” Reputable clinics also provide psychological, nutrition and physical fitness services all in one place. “Surgery is the tool, the care afterwards is the road map,” he says.
Lap-Band surgery is not covered by provincial health care plans. At the CIBO clinic, it costs $3,600 down and $299 a month to a maximum of 72 months.