Reversing Weight Gain after Bariatric Surgery
Darby, PA (May 21, 2013) – As a 911 dispatcher and volunteer firefighter, Michael Galli is used to playing a key role in saving other people’s lives. So when the long-time Aldan resident decided to have bariatric surgery in 2004 at a Center City Philadelphia hospital, he took the first step to save his own.
“At my heaviest, I weighed 468 pounds,” recalls Galli. “I needed help to get healthy. I knew people who had success with weight loss surgery and I thought I could benefit from it, too.”
Galli underwent what was explained to him as gastric bypass surgery. He lost 105 pounds, but eventually, most of the weight – 64 pounds of it – returned.
Fearing a setback, Galli sought the help of the Mercy Bariatrics team at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby.
“Weight regain after bariatric surgery is a common issue that patients face long term,” says Mercy Bariatrics Director Prashanth Ramachandra, MD. “One must remember that bariatric surgery is just a tool to aid in weight loss. Patient participation is equally important to help with their weight loss process.”
According to Dr. Ramachandra, a designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence® surgeon, letting good nutrition and exercise habits slip can lead to weight gain, but issues with the surgical procedure can also be factors. For example, natural changes could occur in the new stomach, allowing the person to eat more and absorb more calories.
A major issue was discovered in Galli’s case: he never had gastric bypass surgery, after all.
A barium swallow study at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital revealed that he actually had a vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG), where his stomach was stapled so that a part of it was made smaller. This restricted the amount of food he ate and contributed to his initial weight loss.
A true gastric bypass procedure restricts food intake and shortens the digestive track by creating a small gastric pouch from the upper portion of the stomach. Food is swallowed into the pouch instead of the stomach, and this limits the amount that can be eaten. The food then bypasses the first part of the small intestine and is diverted slowly into the small bowel for digestion. Since the food doesn’t go through the entire length of the small intestine, weight is also lost through some malabsorption of calories and nutrients.
Dr. Ramachandra says, on the other hand, that VBG is no longer considered an effective type of weight loss surgery and is no longer offered in many bariatrics programs.
“One of the biggest disadvantages with VBG was that eating larger amounts of food could have expanded the stomach and caused the staples to pop out,” he explains. “That could basically undo the surgery and could lead to weight gain.”
Galli knows this all too well. He remembers gulping water down one day and feeling sharp pains in his stomach. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but later learned the pains were caused by the staples popping out.
“When patients start regaining weight due to an issue with the procedure they’ve had, most of the time, they experience no symptoms other than weight regain,” Dr. Ramachandra says. “These issues can be reversed to help patients get back on track with their weight loss regimen.
“In Michael’s case, we reversed his previous surgery and performed a gastric bypass that better allowed him to lose weight successfully. We continue to closely monitor his progress and ensure he remains successful.”
Now at 260 pounds, Galli is well on his way to his goal weight of 200.
“I knew I needed some help again and I’m glad I did the follow-up to see what could be done after my first surgery,” says Galli.
Mercy Bariatrics is an award-winning comprehensive program that has helped more than 850 people successfully lose weight and sustain a healthier lifestyle. It has earned multiple distinctions, including Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence ®, Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery® and Aetna Institute of Quality® Bariatric Surgery Facility designations at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. Mercy Bariatrics is also available at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital in West Philadelphia.
To learn more about weight loss surgery options and to register for the free seminars, call 1.855.LESS YOU (1.855.537.7968) or visit www.mercybariatrics.org.