Sentara Launches Minimally Invasive Bariatric Program
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Sentara Launches Minimally Invasive Bariatric Program 

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Norfolk, VA - Millions of Americans struggle with their weight, but the battle to shed pounds can be especially desperate for people who are severely obese, at least 100 pounds overweight or twice their ideal weight.

Their obesity can also put them at risk for life-threatening conditions. Sentara is now offering a new Minimally Invasive Bariatric Program for morbidly obese patients who have repeatedly failed to bring their weight under control with diet, medications, exercise or behavior modification programs. Sentara Norfolk General Hospital hosts the region’s specialty center for minimally invasive bariatric surgery.

Bariatric surgery is not new to Sentara. Under the leadership of Stephen Schechner, M.D., Sentara Leigh Hospital has had a very successful program for the past 15 years.

For patients like Heather Neal of Suffolk who has lost 154 pounds after gastric bypass surgery, the decision to have the procedure came after a lifetime of struggling with weight.

“I would have the surgery again today. I was a 31-year-old trapped in a 65-year-old body. I was in constant pain; my knees were killing me,” says Heather. “ I had 31 years of that life and don’t ever want it again.”

Bariatric medicine focuses on the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity. Almost one-quarter of all U.S. adults are considered obese. An estimated 2-6% of U.S. adults are morbidly obese. It’s become a national epidemic and according to the National Institutes of Health, surgical weight loss programs are the only proven method of achieving long term weight loss for morbid obesity.

“We are offering hope to people who realize they have a bleak future,” says Stephen Wohlgemuth, general surgeon and medical director of the SNGH Bariatric Program. “People who suffer from morbid obesity are likely to develop a life-threatening comorbidity, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and cardiac disease.”

Gastric bypass is currently the gold standard for weight loss surgery. The Sentara Bariatic Program is the region’s first specialty weight loss program to offer this procedure laparoscopically. Performed through several small incisions, the operation reduces the size of the stomach. The small intestine is “attached” to the new stomach, allowing the lower part of the stomach to be bypassed. The operation restricts food intake and reduces the feeling of hunger resulting in weight loss. The minimally invasive technique reduces scarring, recovery time and post-surgical pain and results in a shorter hospital stay. When a patient’s condition prohibits the laparoscopic method, traditional bypass surgery is performed.

SNGH’s medical team is experienced with specialized training in Bariatic Medicine. Six specially designed rooms offer customized accommodations including: Bariatric Care beds, roomier seating, larger stretchers, specialized lifts and upsized bathroom facilities all of which make it more comfortable for obese patients. There are two dedicated operating rooms for Bariatric surgeries also specially designed with the patients safety in mind.

There is also a strong ongoing support component in the Sentara Bariatric Program including the physician, a dedicated program coordinator, and a consultation clinic provide counseling, nutrition and fitness programs.

“We have also developed a multidisciplinary program of care that deliver services prior to surgery and after surgery because we are committed to each patient’s long-term success” says Wohlgemuth.

Sentara CarePlex Hospital will also be offering minimally invasive bariatric surgery this summer.

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