The National Center for Health Statistics reports that roughly 59 million adult Americans meet the criteria for obesity. When plain old dieting has failed again and again, desperate, morbidly obese people who could no sooner chase a child than run a marathon are increasingly turning to more drastic measures, not merely to shed pounds but to improve their health. What was once a somewhat risky procedure popularly called “stomach staple” surgery has evolved into a popular, relatively safe operation that reduces the size of the stomach and limits food intake to micro-mini portions. Some procedures, like gastric banding, are reversible and can be done on an outpatient basis; others may be done laparoscopically, eliminating deep abdominal incisions. Patients are carefully screened for psychiatric issues and given all kinds of pre-and-post-op services, including exercise and nutrition counseling and support groups. Three local hospitals have been approved as centers of excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery; a fourth, Abington, is awaiting that seal momentarily. All offer a full menu of surgical options. The programs are:
The Bariatric Surgery Program at Pennsylvania Hospital earned its ASMBS accreditation by passing rigorous standards of surgical skill at both laparoscopic and open procedures, careful patient selection, and a team that treats obesity as a psychological as well as a physical problem (800 Spruce Street, 800-789-7366, pennhealth.com/bariatrics).
Einstein Bariatrics has done 400 procedures, and its lead surgeon, Ramsey Dallal, has personally operated on more than 1,000 people without a single mortality. Equipped with all the latest technology, Einstein is notable for its organized adolescent program and its commitment to those with limited financial resources. Thirty percent of its patients are on Medicaid or Medicare, and half are minorities (60 Township Line Road, Elkins Park, 800-EINSTEIN, einsteinbariatrics.com).
The Surgical Weight Loss Center at Abington Memorial Hospital has performed 189 surgeries since opening in 2006, and takes the approach that surgery isn’t a magic bullet, but a path to lifelong change (1200 Old York Road, Abington, 215-481-3500, amh.org).
Temple Bariatric Surgery Program is one of the busiest in the region and has performed more than 1,400 operations with excellent outcomes. It’s designated an Independence Blue Cross Bariatric Center of Distinction (3401 N. Broad Street, 800-TEMPLE-MED, bariatric.templehealth.org).