American Hospitals get into the act: Bariatric Surgery


After recent changes in the recommendations for the treatment of obesity and diabetes supporting the use of surgery (as previously discussed here) American hospitals have begun aggressively campaigning for medical tourists.. Several hospitals in Tennessee have created Bariatric programs to steer interested patients to their clinics – and in some cases are using TennCare dollars to do so. (TennCare is the Tennessee medicare program – which has been plagued with problems since it’s inception.)

With the FDA lowering the BMI restrictions for Lap-band procedures in particular, this procedure which is often marketed as the ‘easy bariatric surgery’ has taken off in popularity.  This is concerning since much of the research shows this device to be limited in effectiveness, particularly in the treatment of diabetes.

These BMI restrictions which were reduced from a BMI of 35 (with diabetes)  down to 30 can also be viewed as a government endorsement of the Lap-Band device since similar recommendations regarding the more definitive procedures such as Roux-en-Y have not been addressed.  It looks like a double win for this private company (Allergan) as the FDA prepares to approve this device for use in teenagers as young as 14, despite criticisms from the medical community.

Now in the past, I have strongly advocated for better and more aggressive treatment recommendations for diabetes and morbid obesity – but I have also believe in following the scientific data and research findings – which just don’t seem to support Lap-Banding for permanent / effective weight loss or blood sugar reductions.  Like we’ve seen several times before, these ‘easy’ quick fix solutions to try to take short cuts around surgery don’t always work – and in the end, you end off worse off then someone who didn’t have any procedures at all.  If patients want effective solutions to real problems – we should give it to them.  But we need to stop candy coating the risks and dangers, and hard selling devices, and give patients the actual facts.

I’d also like to recommend that interested readers sign up for Medscape.com accounts – it’s free and they have an entire section devoted to obesity/ diabetes/ bariatric procedures that highlights all of the research related to different procedures, and treatments.  I try to re-post when I can but it’s difficult for lengthy articles.

In that spirit – I have re-posted the latest gastric bypass article from Heartwire below.  (Interesting commentary that heartwire has a bariatric surgery section now.) It’s another Reed Miller report dated May 2, 2011:

Gastric Bypass Does More than Reduce Weight

April 29, 2011 (New York, NY) — Gastric-bypass surgery may provide benefits to patients with type 2 diabetes beyond the benefits that can be directly attributed to weight loss, a new study finds [1].

According to Dr Blandine Laferrère (St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, New York, NY) and colleagues, recent studies that show a strong correlation between the concentrations of plasma branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and related metabolites with insulin resistance and loss of insulin sensitivity raise the possibility that the rapid remission of diabetes seen in many diabetic patients after gastric-bypass surgery may be related to the pronounced changes in BCAAs or other metabolites and not the weight loss alone.

In a study published in the April 27, 2011 issue of Science Translational Medicine, Laferrère et al found the total amino acids and BCAAs decreased in the gastric bypass surgery group but not in a similar group of patients who lost the same amount of weight (10 kg) with diet alone. Also, the metabolites derived from BCAA oxidation decreased only in the surgery group. Levels of acylcarnitines and BCAAs and their metabolites were inversely correlated with proinsulin concentrations, C-peptide response to oral glucose, and the insulin-sensitivity index after weight loss, whereas the BCAAs and their metabolites were uniquely correlated with levels of insulin resistance.

These data suggest that the enhanced decrease in circulating amino acids that follows weight loss after gastric-bypass surgery is caused by a mechanism other than weight loss and may be related to why gastric-bypass patients often show more rapid improvement in glucose homeostasis than similar patients who lose weight without surgery, Laferrère et al conclude. However, the authors caution, “Whether the decrease in these metabolites and the implied activation of fuel oxidation is a cause or consequence of the diabetes remission after gastric bypass remains to be determined. . . . Future studies will further characterize the pathways involved in these metabolic alterations and will seek to understand whether the specific metabolic signature of [gastric-bypass surgery] is related to changes in gut peptides after surgery.”

In an accompanying perspective [2], Drs Robert E Gerszten and Thomas J Wang (Harvard University, Boston, MA) agree that “further work is needed to establish whether the reduction in concentrations of circulating amino acids after weight loss is the cause or a consequence of improvements in insulin sensitivity.”

Circulating amino-acid concentrations are likely to be determined partly by genetics and partly by environmental and nutritional factors, they explain, so “dissecting these effects will require nutritional manipulation studies with a variety of amino acids to be conducted in human subjects, especially given the availability of profiling technologies that permit characterization of the molecular consequences of such interventions,” the editorialists state.”

To the multiple readers who emailed me for more bariatric surgery/ diabetes information – I usually post whenever new or interesting information gets published. If you send specific questions about procedures, indications or related matter – I will try and address it in a future post.

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