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Concerns Raised Over "Stomach Stapling" Surgery for Obese

Demand is skyrocketing for "stomach stapling" bariatric surgeries, which shrink the stomach to help the obese lose weight. The number of procedures performed in the United States jumped to 103,000 last year from about 16,000 in the early 1990s. Analysts say many factors are driving the frenzy, including a rise in obesity, the advent of less-invasive surgical techniques and publicity from celebrities. But as health insurers grapple with mounting medical costs, the $30,000 procedure is coming under close scrutiny. Gastric bypass surgery is the only approach that traditional medicine has for obesity. Its long-term success rate borders on 10 percent and it is fraught with other complications including bone loss, liver failure that may not show up until 10 years after surgery and immune system damage. Needless to say, I am not an advocate of this approach when far more effective, healthy and less expensive options exist.

New England Journal of Medicine March 11, 2004;350(11):1075-9.

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