Building a Weight Loss Surgery Support Program that Works

Weight loss surgery is a powerful tool in the treatment of obesity. But, many bariatric surgeons note that the real key to positive outcomes lies in providing patients with comprehensive, ongoing support after their surgery. Dr. Emma Patterson, Medical Director at Oregon Weight Loss Surgery, explains the fundamentals of post-op support and the revolutionary program she has created for her practice in this interview at the 2009 ASMBS annual meeting in Grapevine, TX.

Few bariatric surgeons in the country have as much experience as Dr. Emma Patterson, medical director at Oregon Weight Loss Surgery (OWLS) in Portland, Oregon. She has performed more than 1,300 laparoscopic bariatric surgery procedures, including gastric bypass and Lap-Band surgery, has trained hundreds of surgeons around the world, and has published more than 100 journal articles, abstracts and book chapters. Yet, Patterson is the first to admit that surgery is not the magic bullet when it comes to treating obesity.

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“Weight loss and the improvements in health are all about the post-operative support,” says Patterson, who has practiced bariatric surgery for more than a decade. “As a surgeon, I do my job in the operating room, but no matter how well I do that, it doesn’t guarantee that the patient is going to lose a lot of weight.”

She adds, “Success and achievement are different with every patient, some need more help than others. Our practice attempts to meet each individual’s needs.”

To ensure her patients have the greatest likelihood of achieving optimal health following weight loss surgery, Patterson has assembled a team of allied healthcare professionals who offer guidance on everything from nutrition and fitness to emotional balance. The Center’s extensive support program includes several full-time dieticians, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, board certified surgeons, and psychiatrists, as well as a bariatrician endocrinologist. The entire team is enthusiastic about measuring the success of each patient.

Prior to a patient undergoing weight loss surgery, the team focuses on detailed pre-op work-ups, which include determining appropriate vitamin and protein intake and creating efficient exercise regimens. Each work-up is tailor-made to benefit the individual. This allows the patient to create a lifestyle that they can execute after surgery.

In addition, Patterson highly recommends constant follow-ups the first year following any kind of weight loss surgery. Research shows that patients who are actively involved with their surgeon during the entire process are more likely to continue accruing positive results, compared to those not involved with post-op programs.

“Our band patients come back monthly for the first year for follow up with a surgeon or physician assistant for band adjustments and counseling,” says Patterson. Gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy patients come into the office every 2-3 months during the first year, she says.

Adds Patterson, “I really think there is a benefit to the psychological support…It can be a difficult journey, and I think that just having that support from expert psychologists is really helpful.”

The need for a continued focus on pre- and post-operative support was a hot topic at last month’s annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, illustrating the overwhelming endorsement by doctors and allied healthcare professionals of patient support programs like the one at OWLS. Although bariatric surgeons and surgical centers may offer different ways of supporting their patients, the necessity  of comprehensive, ongoing guidance proved to be an underlying theme at the conference.

6 Responses

  1. Margarita Sanchez

    I am 5 years post op. Am very concern at the weight that I have gain back. I am convince that other issues have surfaced and if I don’t take care of them, I’ll be back up to what I lost. I am willing to do whatever it take, but I need the support. I started to see a counselor who my issurance covers and was disappointed with her. I know that it’s up to me but i do need support. Please help or advice me…..I am willing to learn more and do more. Margarita

    Reply
  2. Jeannie

    I gained weight snd took it off again. Lets talk and help each other.

    Reply
  3. Jeannie

    I had my surg 4 years ago. I’m very happy I had it. It really helped me change my life.

    Reply
  4. Judy Calufetti

    I am 2 1/2 years post op and I too have regained some of the weight I lost. My hunger came back after the first 18 months and I was only half way to my goal. I now feel like all the benefits of the gastric bypass surgery are gone and I’m disappointed because I thought I had this weight problem licked and am so depressed and aggravated that the benefits of the surgery were so short lived. No one told me that would happen. If I keep gaining at this rate I will be right back where I started. Does anyone else have this problem and does anyone have any advise?

    Reply
  5. Patrece

    Counseling is a wonderful tool. BUT the journey we are on here, really takes specialized help to work through all of the many issues faced by the wls population. Attending a support grup can help a lot. Also, working with a bariatric life coach can be a very valuable experience in helping us achieve and maintain our goals. Be sure you work with one who is intimately familiar with obesity and weight loss surgery and who has undergone training specifically to assist wls patients.

    Reply
  6. rita

    I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM I HAVEN’T GAINED ALL OF IT BACK BUT ENOUGH TO BE CONCERNED. ANY HELPFUL TIPS. IT’S BEEN 2YEARS. 16 POUNDS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE A LOT BUT B4 U KNOW IT 20, 25 50. AND THAT WOULD TRULY B A WASTE OF ALL THE SUFFERING.

    Reply

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