People struggling to lose weight may soon be offered scar-free stomach reduction surgery from the NHS – as early studies suggest that some patients can lose up to 5th within six months of surgery and reduce their risk of diabetes, heart problems and stroke.
During the 90-minute procedure, instruments inserted through the mouth are used to sew the walls of the stomach together, making it about two-thirds smaller – about the size of a large banana.
Afterward, appetite is reduced and patients are warned that if they overeat, the sutures can loosen and the stomach will return to its original size.
Surgeons say it is more successful than other weight loss treatments because the success of the surgery depends in part on willpower.
More than two million people in the UK are classified as morbidly obese, meaning their weight can harm their health.
People struggling to lose weight will soon be able to get scar-free stomach reduction surgery at the NHS. Pictured: how the procedure would be performed
Obesity can lead to heart disease, diabetes, strokes and wear and tear of bones and muscles, resulting in hip and knee replacement.
Patients often need to lose weight prior to procedures such as knee surgery or fertility treatment.
But with the NHS waiting lists for conventional weight-loss surgeries at an all-time high – the wait is usually two years – many are desperate for a faster fix.
The new technique, known as endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, could offer a solution. Until now it was only available privately from one clinic and cost over £ 10,000.
But now, surgeons at a major teaching hospital in London are planning to offer it to select NHS patients. Those who undergo the procedure lose an average of up to 20 percent of their body weight – the 3rd on average. However, many people lose a lot more.
Stomach expert Dr Devinder Bansi, of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, said: ‘A ten percent weight loss is enough to improve diabetes control and protect against heart disease, stroke and arthritis, as well as acid reflux and sleep apnea. ‘
Dr. Bansi is offering the surgery privately at Cromwell Hospital in London and plans to apply for funding from the NHS on a case-by-case basis for selected patients. One of the first patients to benefit lost the 5th after surgery in February last year.
Businesswoman Anita Larson, 53, struggled with her weight after having a spine problem that prevented her from exercising. She relied on doses of steroids to keep pain at bay, but one side effect was weight gain.
“I tried every diet, but nothing worked,” Anita said. “I just couldn’t move the weight.”
At her heaviest she weighed 19 – at 1.75 meters her BMI was 42, which meant that her weight was putting her health at risk. Today she is 13th at 8 pounds with a BMI of 30.
Anita is delighted with her new figure. “It’s not a magic wand. If I ate badly, it wouldn’t work.
‘But I don’t get hungry, I’m less hungry and after three bites I’m full. Weight has decreased steadily even in lockdown. ‘
The results of the new surgery are comparable to one of the most invasive weight-loss surgeries: sleeve gastrectomy, in which the stomach is cut and sutured so that it becomes a tube.
This reduces stomach volume and diminishes appetite, but one in ten patients can no longer absorb essential nutrients and are forced to rely on lifelong vitamin injections.
Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty does not cut the stomach, so this complication is avoided.
The procedure is performed under general anesthetic. A small camera on the end of a flexible tube called an endoscope is placed in the throat and stomach, and then a special tool is inserted that collects and stitches the stomach wall together.
The stitches are made of a non-absorbable nylon-based material that resists stomach acid and can stay there indefinitely. At a later date, the patient can have them removed and the stomach will return to its normal size.
Patients can be back to work within four days.
Like all weight-loss surgeries, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is ineffective in about 20 percent of patients.
However, a recent study found that more than half of patients manage to maintain their weight loss for five years after surgery.