Q&A: Safe and Effective Surgical Weight Loss

The new bariatric program at Providence Saint John's Health Center provides long-term support to patients.

At Providence Saint John’s Health Center, we are proud to announce the opening of our new Bariatric Surgery & Metabolic Weight Loss Center. The program will provide weight loss education, consultation and surgical services using state-of-the-art minimally invasive robotic surgery. The program is directed by Danny Shouhed, MD, an expert in minimally invasive surgery. We asked Dr. Shouhed about the program and his philosophy of care.

Why did you choose to specialize in bariatric surgery?

The first and foremost reason I do this surgery is for the patient’s health and well-being and to affect their lifespan. Second, the surgeries involved are among the more complex types of minimally invasive surgery we do. It’s laparoscopic and robotic, meaning we make small incisions and insert a camera and instruments to conduct the surgery. Robotic surgery offers better visualization and precision while maintaining complete control of the operation through the manipulation of four robotic arms.

Why did you choose to join Providence Saint John’s to launch this new program?

The hospital has an excellent reputation. Under the leadership of Chief Executive Michael Ricks, the hospital has a special interest in robotic-assisted surgery and is dedicated to the newest technology and being in the forefront of surgical intervention. The Metabolic Weight Loss Center will play an integral role in the support and success of the Digestive Health Institute at Providence Saint John’s.

Why should people interested in weight loss choose Providence Saint John’s for consultation and care?

Part of our job as physicians and surgeons is educating patients. That’s what we do. The first step is for patients to attend a seminar to become familiar with the epidemic of obesity, how it affects your health, who is a good candidate for surgery and whether surgery is a good option. We then provide a very focused, personalized plan. Our program is comprehensive. For example, all our patients consult with our dietitian about changing their eating patterns and behavior.

Why do you also emphasize psychological support for bariatric patients?

Our patients work closely with a psychologist. About 30% to 40% of our patients are afflicted with some depression, anxiety or other mental health disorder. It’s critical to capture these patients before surgery to address these issues so they are successful after undergoing surgery.

Can you explain the post-surgical component of the program?

I tell my patients that once I operate on them, we will be connected for life. There is a lot of followup in the first year. Surgery is a tool, not a cure, to help patients lose and maintain weight loss. I talk about the three pillars of successful weight loss: surgery, diet and behavior modification, and exercise. A combination of all three components will lead to a successful outcome.

Is bariatric surgery today safe and effective?

Sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass are the two main types of surgery we use, and outcomes are excellent. Bariatric surgery has been around since the 1950s, with the first gastric bypass being completed in 1967. We’ve been doing laparoscopic bariatric surgery since early 1990s. We’ve had a long time to perfect these procedures. On average, patients will achieve about 60% to 70% excess weight loss at five years. Anything above 50% is considered a success. Moreover, about 80% of patients who undergo bariatric surgery will experience a cure of diabetes, and an additional 10% will have improvement of their diabetes. With weight loss, we also see improvements in hypertension, hyperlipidemia, sleep apnea, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is the leading cause of liver failure, requiring liver transplant, in the United States.

What are the first steps for people interested in weight loss or bariatric surgery?

I highly encourage patients to attend our complimentary bariatric seminars. They are educational, and nobody is obligated to go through with surgery. We talk about all the options, both surgical and nonsurgical. The hardest step for patients is often the first step of attending the seminar

For more information, visit the Providence Saint John's Health Center's Bariatric Surgery & Metabolic Weight Loss Center.