News & Updates

Bariatric Surgery Program – One of the newest types of surgery offered at Shasta Regional Medical Center
Many people begin a new way of life through the Northern California Surgical Weight Control Program at Shasta Regional Medical Center (SRMC). The program officially began in November of 2002, featuring a dedicated medical director and a registered nurse. Dianne Livingston, R.N., facilitates pre-operative assessments, the surgical intervention, pre- and post-surgical support groups and pre-, post- and in-hospital patient education/resources as the program’s coordinator.

Why recommend surgery for a weight problem?
People who have tried many ways to lose weight and continue to fit the definition of being morbidly obese (weigh 100 or more pounds over their ‘ideal’ weight) are typically the appropriate candidates for the surgical weight control program at SRMC.

What type of surgical procedure is being predominantly used at SRMC?
The most common surgical technique being used as part of the program at SRMC is the laparoscopic “Roux-en-Y” procedure. Simply stated, the laparoscopic “Roux-en-Y”, involves sectioning off a small portion of the stomach. A small pouch is created for reduced food intake. The pouch is reconnected to the small intestine. The physicians affiliated with the program can also perform the weight reduction surgery using an “open” technique, which involves a longer incision and longer hospitalization.

Through laparoscopic surgery, patients may return to their normal activities sooner, there may be less discomfort and there may be less of a chance for serious post-surgical conditions such as hernias or wound infections.

Candidates should be between the ages of 21 to 55; have a body mass index of 40 to 50; no end organ disease and have successfully completed a psychological and nutritional profile.

“The surgeons and SRMC have been very slow and methodical in beginning this surgical program,” Dianne Livingston, RN, Program Coordinator said. “Our goal is to continually provide a safe, quality program based on industry standards for this type of procedure.”

If a patient is interested in surgical weight loss surgery, what will he/she experience?
Once a patient has inquired about the program or referred by a physician, Dianne invites them to an informational seminar held on a monthly basis. Before they arrive at the seminar, Dianne asks them to complete a health questionnaire.

“At the meeting I really try to clarify the path they are thinking of choosing. It’s my job to help them understand that to be successful they must actively participate and make a forever change in their lifestyle,” Diane said. “I stress the nutritional changes that must occur following the surgery, the life-style transitions that typically occur after the procedure and the life-long commitment to exercise.”

To help evaluate if people are ready both physically and mentally, referring physicians are asked to share the person’s medical records via patient consent and the person must undergo a psychological profile. “We also request records or results of sleep studies, cardiac clearances or gallbladder ultrasounds if indicated,” Diane said. “More tests will be completed if information is needed about a physical or mental condition prior to scheduling surgery.”

People interested in the surgery are also invited to begin attending a pre-surgery support group, designed to help them be better prepared for the surgery, to build up their basic health and fitness pre-surgically and to begin the transition to a new way of living.

What do patients typically experience following surgery?
While a normal stomach can hold about three pints of food at one time, the stomach of a person immediately following weight loss surgery can often hold less than one ounce. For the first six weeks after surgery, it has been said you can package in an egg the approximate amount of solid food a bariatric surgery patient will be able to consume a day. Over the next 12 to 18 months, the stomach’s size will typically increase to accommodate small amounts of food (four to six ounces) at one time. Reportedly, one of the major benefits of this surgery is that patients often report feeling satisfied after they’ve eaten a small amount.

A less satisfying experience is what is often referred to as a “dumping syndrome”. Clinically, dumping occurs when the stomach’s contents move too rapidly through the small intestine. This syndrome typically occurs when a patient eats an overload of sweets or fats that causes a cascade of physical reactions. Some patients describe the syndrome as getting a ‘bad feeling’; a racing heart, sweating, feeling anxious, a sense of doom and in some cases, diarrhea.

Patients also experience frequent follow-ups with their surgeon and are encouraged to attend the post-surgery support group. “Our support group encourages activities that help our attendees make a life-style change. We often offer cooking classes or go hiking, kayaking, or dancing together,” Diane said. “It’s important to create a safe harbor to experiment with social changes and experience many of the firsts other non-obese people do all the time.”

Although statistics can vary widely, many patients shed some of the life-complicating co-conditions that plagued them with their obesity. Some get rid of their diabetes; others can reduce or eliminate the amount of medication they are on for high blood pressure – almost all patients see an improvement in their health one year after their surgery.

Explain the possible post-surgical complications
Complications from the surgery can be serious. The National Institute on Health’s web site indicates that 10 to 20% of patients who have weight loss operations require follow-up operations to correct complications from the initial surgery and some patients having this type of surgery can develop gall stones. Nearly 30% of patients can experience certain nutritional deficiencies, which can often be successfully treated with vitamin/mineral supplements. Basically, bariatric surgery is a tool that can help change a life and help people lose weight but medical professionals indicate the surgery should always be decided upon with a clear and full understanding of the complications as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure.

Celebrating a new way of life
The post-surgery support group organized a holiday extravaganza in November of 2003. More than 120 people attended the event, which boasted a motivational speaker, a fashion show featuring 20 post-surgery patients. Four fashion show participants also modeled a hair and cosmetic make-over. All participants modeled clothes they could now wear.

If you have any questions about the surgical weight-control program at Shasta Regional Medical Center, please call Dianne Livingston, Program Coordinator, at 530. 247.1757.