Back in the OR with Drs. Ham & Abril, bariatric and general surgeons

My first case this morning with another surgeon was cancelled – which was disappointing, but I still had a great day in the operating room with Dr.  Ham and Dr. Abril.  This time I was able to witness a bariatric surgery, so I could report back to all of you.

Dr. Ham (left) and Dr. Abril

I really enjoy their relaxed but detail oriented style – it makes for a very enjoyable case.  Today they performed a sleeve gastrectomy** so I am able to report – that they (Dr. Ham) oversewed the staple line (quite nicely, I might add).  If you’ve read any of the previous books, then you know that this is an important step to prevent suture line dehiscence leading to leakage of stomach contents into the abdomen (which can cause very serious complications.)  As I said – it’s an important step – but not one that every doctor I’ve witnessed always performed.   So I was a pleased as punch to see that these surgeons are as world-class and upstanding as everything I’d seen already suggested..

** as long time readers know, I am a devoted fan of the Roux-en-Y, but recent literature suggests that the sleeve gastrectomy is equally effective in the treatment of diabetes.. Of course – we’ll be watching the research for more information on this topic of debate. I hope further studies confirm these results since the sleeve gives patients just a little less of a drastic lifestyle change.. (still drastic but not shot glass sized drastic.)

Dr. Ham

They invited me to the show this evening – they are having several clowns (that are doctors, sort of Patch Adams types) on the show to talk about the health benefits of laughter.  Sounds like a lot of fun – but I thought I better catch up on my writing..

I’ll be back in the OR with Los Doctores again tomorrow..

Speaking of which – I wanted to pass along some information on the anesthesiologist for Dr. Molina’s cases since he did such a nice job with the conscious sedation yesterday.  (I’ve only watched him just yesterday – so I will need a few more encounters, but I wanted to mention Dr. Andres Garcia Gutierrez all the same.

Gastric bypass to ‘cure’ diabetes goes mainstream

A full year after we reported it here (and several years after initially being reported in the literature), mainstream media has finally picked up the story about gastric bypass surgery for the definitive treatment of diabetes.   The story made all of the heavies; the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

Unfortunately, all of these outlets seem unaware of the existing literature in this area – these results while encouraging, are not surprising.  Similar results have been demonstrated in several other (but smaller) studies for the past ten years, which led to previous recommendations (last summer) for the adoption of gastric bypass surgery as a first-line treatment for diabetes in obese patients.

The publication of two new studies showing clear benefits for diabetics undergoing bariatric surgery has brought this news to the forefront.  In both of these studies, diabetic patients were able to stop taking oral glycemics and insulins after surgery within days..

As this front page story from the New York Times notes – these results do not apply to the more widely marketed ‘lap-band.’  This comes to no surprise to dedicated followers at Cartagena Surgery, who have been reading articles on this topic since our site’s inception in late 2010.

You heard it here first.  For more information on this topic, see our tab on Diabetes & Bariatrics under the ‘surgery’ header. We’ve included a small selection from our archives here.

Bariatric surgery headlines – August 2010

Gastric bypass surgery gets the international federation of diabetes approval.

Gastric bypass as treatment for diabetes

High-fructose corn syrup is dangerous by any other name

Not as innocent as the Corn Refiners Association would have you believe.

In a courtroom in Los Angeles, a fierce battle is being pitched right now – one that affects almost every person in this nation..    It’s a lawsuit from the nation’s sugar producers accusing the corn industry of false advertising.. That’s right – it takes industry giants to take on those ridiculous, and mis-leading ads.

You know, those ads that ridicule consumers for their health concerns related to the use of high-fructose corn syrup?  (We’ve discussed these health concerns previously in a series of posts that you can see here  and here.)

Link to ad by Corn Industry

But, here (finally) is a response to those ads – that uses science, not fallacy to refute those claims.

At the same time, the Corn Refiners Association has filed a petition with the Food & Drug Administration to change the name of their product from ‘High-fructose corn syrup” to the more innocuous-sounding “Corn Sugar,” which is just another attempt to deceive the American public.

This move comes just as a new medical study links the consumption of a single daily soda with a 20% increase in heart attacks in men.  There’s a great article over at the that summarizing these findings, which I have re-posted below for readers.  (the original study was published in Circulation).

Unfortunately, corn syrup in our everyday products in not usually so easy to identify.

A soda a day raises CHD risk by 20% – Lisa Nainggolan

March 12. 2012

Boston, MA – Sugary drinks are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) as well as some adverse changes in lipids, inflammatory factors, and leptin, according to a new analysis of men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, reported by  Dr Lawrence de Koning (Children’s Hospital Boston, MA) and colleagues online March 12, 2012 in Circulation [1].

Even a moderate amount of sugary beverage consumption—we are talking about one can of soda every day—is associated with a significant 20% increased risk of heart disease even after adjusting for a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors,” senior author Dr Frank B Hu (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA) told heartwire. “The increased risk is quite substantial, and I think has important public-health implications given the widespread consumption of soda, not only in the US but also increasing very rapidly in developing countries.”

The increased risk is quite substantial, and I think has important public-health implications given the widespread consumption of soda.

The researchers did not find an increased risk of CHD with artificially sweetened beverages in this analysis, however. “Diet soda has been shown to be associated with weight gain and metabolic diseases in previous studies, even though this hasn’t been substantiated in our study,” says Hu. “The problem with diet soda is its high-intensity sweet taste, which may condition people’s taste. It’s still an open question whether diet soda is an optimal alternative to regular soda; we need more data on this. ”

Hu says water is the best thing to drink, or coffee or tea. Fruit juice is “not a very good alternative, because of the high amount of sugar,” he adds, although if diluted with water, “it’s much better than a can of soda,” he notes.

And Hu says although the current results apply only to men, prior data from his group in women in the Nurses’ Health Study [from 2009] were comparable, “which really boosts the credibility of the findings.”

Inflammation could be a pathway for impact of soda upon CHD risk

Hu and colleagues explain that while much research has shown a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes, few studies have looked at the association of these drinks with CHD.

Hence, they analyzed the associations of cumulatively averaged sugar-sweetened (eg, sodas) and artificially sweetened (eg, diet sodas) beverage intake with incident fatal and nonfatal CHD (MI) in 42 883 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up study. Beginning in 1986 and every two years until December 2008, participants answered questionnaires about diet and other health habits. A blood sample was provided midway through the study.

There were 3683 CHD cases over 22 years of follow-up. Those in the top quartile of sugar-sweetened-beverage intake had a 20% higher relative risk of CHD than those in the bottom quartile (RR 1.20; p for trend <0.001) after adjustment for age, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, multivitamins, family history, diet quality, energy intake, body-mass index, preenrollment weight change, and dieting.

Adjustment for self-reported high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and diagnosed type 2 diabetes only slightly attenuated these associations, which suggests that drinking soda “may impact on CHD risk above and beyond traditional risk factors,” say the researchers.

Consumption of artificially sweetened drinks was not significantly associated with CHD (multivariate RR 1.02; p for trend=0.28).

Intake of sugar-sweetened drinks, but not artificially sweetened ones, was also significantly associated with increased triglycerides and several circulating inflammatory factors—including C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor-necrosis-factor receptor 1 (TNFr1)—as well as decreased HDL cholesterol, lipoprotein (a) (Lp[a]), and leptin (p<0.02).

“Inflammation is a key factor in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and cardiometabolic disease and could represent an additional pathway by which sugar-sweetened beverages influence risk,” say Hu et al.

Cutting consumption of soda is one of easiest behaviors to change

Hu says that one of the major constituents of soda, high-fructose corn syrup, is subsidized in the US, making such drinks “ridiculously cheap” and helping explain why consumption is so high, particularly in lower socioeconomic groups.

Doctors should be advising people with heart disease or at risk to cut back on sugary beverages; it’s almost a no-brainer.

“Doctors should set an example for their patients first,” he stresses. “Then, for people who already have heart disease or who are at high risk, physicians should be advising them to cut back on sugary beverages; it’s almost a no-brainer, like recommending that they stop smoking and do more exercise. The consumption of sugary beverages is a relatively easy behavior to change.”

And although this particular study included mostly white subjects and there are few data on the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with the consumption of soda in people of other ethnicities, there are data on its effect on type 2 diabetes in these groups, he says.

“It has been shown for minority groups—such as African Americans and Asians—that they are more susceptible to the detrimental effects” of sugary drinks on diabetes incidence, he notes.

And if you think soft drinks are the only culprits containing high-fructose corn syrup – you’ll be surprised.  Livestrong has published a list of corn syrup containing products – and you’ll see with even a quick glance, that it’s everywhere, and in everything.

Another blog talking about the harm of Corn Syrup

The doctor won’t see you now..

Ironically, just a few days ago we were talking about lung cancer and discrimination against patients with lung cancer in the post, The Pearl Ribbon.   Now a new article published in Physicians Money Digest,  suggests that one of the latest trends is discrimination against the obese.  As obese people can tell you – this discrimination has always existed in some form, and from all avenues in society including medicine.

However, this new trend consists of doctors avoiding accepting obese patients in their practice, mainly to avoid the increased workload related to obesity related complications.  That’s right – as discussed in the article by Laura Mortokowitz, which I have re-posted below -some doctors are avoiding caring for obese patients because they do not want to provide care to patients with higher risks of certain complications – diabetes, heart disease, etc.

As someone who works in heart surgery, I can see this issue from both sides.  As many of you know – I am sometimes disheartened by the sheer overwhelming volume of disease (due to diabetes) and the amount of suffering involved for my patients.  I am particularly distressed at times when I see the amount of preventable suffering, and damage my patients experience from not controlling their blood pressure, checking their glucose or taking their medications.  But my patients are already sick – that’s why the are seeing a heart surgeon.  So, I often mourn these lost opportunities to prevent disease (heart attacks, strokes etc.), and I can see how primary care providers, and other providers may feel emotional fatigue and frustration at times.

But, other the other hand –  not every obese person is a stroke or heart attack waiting to happen.  Many of these people can be helped – by education, counseling or even bariatric surgery.  If these people are aggressively followed and cared for, risk reduction can help prevent catastrophic complications – by managing medical conditions that may develop – with aggressive cholesterol control, blood pressure management, etc.

Lastly, medicine is not an exact science – while risks may be greatly increased in many obese people – it is not a guarantee.. Just as it’s a false assumption that all overweight people are sedentary (ie. ‘fat and lazy’), not all overweight people will develop any or all of the complications we’ve discussed before.   But it is guaranteed that these obese patients will suffer, if this trend continues and more and more doctors shun them.

But my door is always open.

By Laura Mortkowitz, Wednesday, November, 16th, 2011
A recent move by Florida ob-gyn physicians to begin turning away overweight patients on the grounds that they were too risky might be the beginning of a new trend. According to Michael Nusbaum, MD, FACS, the health reform bill’s Accountable Care Organizations essentially de-incentivize physicians from taking on morbidly obese patients.
As they stand now, ACOs look at quality measures and they base reimbursements on complications. Doctors already know that a high complication rate will mean less money, and obese patients are considered high-risk patients by definition.
“Under the current bill, the Accountable Care Organizations are looking strictly at outcome measures, so unless that changes I don’t see the perception by physicians changing toward who they’re going to want to treat and who they’re not going to treat,” says Nusbaum, the Medical Director at The Obesity Treatment Centers of New Jersey.
This new practice is not something that would have occurred in the past for two reasons: one, physicians might be reluctant to treat an obese patient, but it was rare to turn them away completely; and two, it was very rare to treat a morbidly obese patient a couple of decades ago.
However, over the last 10 years, the percentage of the population that is overweight has increased dramatically. Today, close to 70% of the population is at least overweight, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even more concerning, is the fact that pediatric obesity has tripled over the last 20 years.
“Is the health care system to take care of morbidly obese patients? I would argue that it’s not,” Nusbaum says. “Pretty clearly it’s not. The problem with the health care system is that it lacks infrastructure.”
Most machines and tables can only hold up to 350 pounds, and any patients that exceed that weight might not even be able to get treated at a hospital that doesn’t have the equipment to handle an obese patient. According to Nusbaum, it should be a requirement that hospitals are equipped to treat any morbidly obese patient.
“Nobody is even talking about it,” he says. “Everybody is afraid to even talk about this.”
And it doesn’t seem as if new health laws are encouraging to the treatment of obesity. Under the new health bill’s Essentials Benefit Package, bariatric surgery is not covered because morbid obesity is being considered a poor lifestyle choice. As a result, insurance companies “have become emboldened to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to cover it either,’” Nusbaum says.
In New Jersey, Blue Cross/Blue Shield has 14 insurance policies, and eight of them do not cover bariatric surgery at all.
“What you’re seeing happening is a change in attitude to bariatric surgery and in my opinion a discrimination against those people who have weight issues,” Nusbaum says.
However, there was a rather positive turn of events in Michigan, where bariatric surgery will be covered in 2012 after it was dropped for all of this year.
“They noticed that while they were making money in the short term — they were saving money — they were losing more money by not taking care of these patients,” Nusbaum says. “[The patients] were getting sicker. It was very short sighted.”


Diabetes – Global epidemic, part II

As reported at Medpage – the latest Diabetes estimates were released by the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) this week at the EASD (European Association for the Study of Diabetes) as the news was even grimmer than predicted just a few short months ago: Researchers now estimate 366 million people HAVE diabetes worldwide – greatly surpassing all previous estimates – causing 4.6 million deaths every year.

Leading physicians at this year’s conference continued to stress the importance of Early diagnosis and treatment of Diabetes to prevent serious complications (and death).  This is something we’ve talked about here at Cartagena Surgery – the need for early diagnosis, prompt treatment and aggressive risk reduction.

Preventing diabetes remains a key element of this strategy, but one which we are failiing miserably.  Simple dietary changes such as reducing the consumption of sugar-laden beverages appears to be impossible to implement as we are hopelessly entrenched in American diets (and Indian, Chinese and other nations – as they adopt our fast-food habits).

As many of my face-to-face patients already know, one of the best lines of defense is also one of the oldest in our arsenal of oral anti-glycemics.  For all of my patients who have heard my metformin spiel in person, feel free to skip ahead.  As we’ve discussed in lectures and presentations – Metformin, that simple drug from the 1970’s (one of my $4 faves) has so many side benefits – and the potential cancer benefits are encouraging.. [what’s not encouraging  – is the difficulty getting patients to take their medications regularly – even humble Metformin which is one of the safest, most effective – (clinically proven!) and cheapest diabetes drugs available.]

*as many readers and patients know – this is the one topic where even Cartagena Surgery gets overwhelmed at times.. There is just so much disease/ disability and suffering but it seems like no one is listening or cares enough about themselves to change their habits.**  Please – dear readers – prove me wrong, and write me letters to let me know how you are taking control of your diabetes and your health..

Sugary drink follow up (as promised!)

If you remember, in my blogs about the health benefits of coffee (here, here and here) as well as a previous blog on the health risks related to sugary soft drinks, I promised to bring you more information about our favorite devil-in-disguise, Starbucks.  (I will give them credit for making this information easily accessible, even if it is tiny print.)

I call Starbucks this because on initial consideration..

Coffee: Good!      Big super-sized coffees: Even Better!  and look – a Regular black coffee, no cream, no sugar, any size (including their super-size Venti) is only FIVE calories..

Coffee loaded with cream and sugar:  Not so good.  (How bad is it – you ask? or you should be asking)

well once you start drinking their specialty drinks (and I must be the only person who drinks regular coffee anymore) – that’s when you get into trouble.. so knowing that everyone loves their super-sized coffees, I’ve skipped right to the “Venti” calorie counts..

Cafe Latte with skim milk: 170 calories

Cafe Latte with 2% milk:  240 calories and NINE grams of fat

Cafe Mocha (without whipped cream in these examples)

with nonfat-milk: 280 calories

with 2% milk: 340 calories and 10 grams of fat (that’s a reasonable sized salad with a vinaigrette dressing and maybe cheese or not-so-healthy add-ons)

Vanilla (or other flavored) Lattes:

with non-fat milk: 250 calories (all sugar)

with 2% milk: 320 calories and eight grams of fat

Even the ‘skinny’ lattes have 160 calories..

The specialty espressos are no better (in fact – some are worse, as you will see)

Carmel macchiato:

 with non-fat milk: 240 calories, one gram of fat

with 2% milk:  300 calories, 8 grams of fat

White chocolate mocha (without whipped cream – I think they were afraid of putting the whipped cream calorie counts on this brochure)

with non-fat milk: 450 calories and 7 grams of fat (that’s a decent meal’s worth of calories!!)

with 2% milk: 510 calories and fifteen grams of fat – for a ‘coffee’ !  (I think you can see here how a few of these coffees a week can certainly pile on the pounds.)

Now, if you think that’s no big deal – go on over to (and don’t lie to yourself about your exercise) and put in your information (they have free accounts) and figure out how much walking, jogging or aerobics you have to do to equal out that one coffee.. Hint: It’s a lot more than you’d think – or we wouldn’t be in this mess!

The other items on the menu (including the teas) are no better once you pile in the milks, sugars and other garbage.

What about coffee with soy milk?  Isn’t that supposed to be good for you?  Well, in theory, perhaps.. But actually, for some products, the fat and calorie counts for Starbucks products with soy milk go way, way up.

Cafe Latte with soy milk: 220 calories, 6 grams of fat

Cafe Mocha (no whipped cream) with soy milk: 320 calories, 8 grams of fat

Vanilla Latte with soy milk: 300 calories with 6 grams of fat

Carmel macchiato with soy milk: 280 calories with 6 grams of fat

White chocolate mocha: (no whipped cream): 490 calories, 12 grams of fat

all of this – for a little eye-opener in the morning – time to stick with the regular coffee!

In fairness – I am not picking on Starbucks, they are just the most popular.  Even the local 7 – 11 has a coffee flavored slushy drink that is packed full of sugar and calories.  Of course it’s delicious – but really, that’s besides the point.  Obesity and diabetes are just a mathematical formulation – and it seems many of us are failing the subject entirely.

The Lancet, a well reputed medical journal has just published a series on Obesity, and the numbers are frightening – researchers estimate that by 2030 – (really not that far away) over 165 million Americans will be obese.

The costs of this to society are enormous, and frankly staggering.  Bloomberg published a story estimated an additional 66 BILLION dollars PER year in obesity related costs.  That isn’t just a threat to our health as a nation, but our financial future.

Bariatric surgery and cardiovascular risk reduction: Meta-analysis

The American Journal of Cardiology just published a new meta-analysis (a study looking at a collection of other studies) that evaluates the effectiveness of bariatric surgery for cardiovascular risk reduction.  As we’ve discussed before, meta-analyses are often used to sort through large numbers of studies to look for trends and weed out aberrant results or poorly designed studies.  (This is particularly helpful when a poorly designed study gives conflicting results in comparison to the rest of the existing studies.) So, we are going to talk a bit more about the meta-analysis.

In this case, the authors started with 637 studies to evaluate, but ended up using the data from only 52 studies involving almost 17,000 patients.  The first step of a meta-analysis is to find every single study even remotely related to your topic. So the authors pulled out, printed and looked at every single study they could find talking about bariatric surgery.

Then the authors start eliminating studies that aren’t relevant to their topic because once you take a closer look; a lot of the studies initially gathered aren’t really related to your topic at all.  (For example: If the authors gathered all studies talking about Bariatric surgery outcomes – on closer examination – a study about the rate of depression in bariatric surgery patients wouldn’t have any information usable to evaluate cardiac risk in these patients.)  Otherwise it would be like comparing apples to oranges.

Once authors have narrowed the pool to studies that are only looking at relevant topics, with measurable results – the authors then examine the studies themselves.  The authors evaluate all aspects of the studies: what is the study design, what does it measure, (is it designed to measure what it is supposed to measure?), what are the results?  (were the results calculated correctly?)  what are the conclusions?  what are the limitations of the study?

Then the authors summarize all of the findings, and draw conclusions based on the results. (if 50 studies involving 16,900 people show one thing – and 2 studies involving 100 people show something completely different – the authors will discuss that.)

The strengths of meta-analyses are that they summarize all of the existing studies out there – and provide readers with fairly powerful results because they involve large numbers of people.

For researchers, meta-analyses are cheap – particularly in comparison to designing, conducting a large-scale study with hundreds or thousands of subjects.  A meta-analysis doesn’t require federal grants or institutional permissions.  It just requires a computer and journal access (along with a good knowledge of study design, statistics).

As you can imagine, the downside of meta-analyses is that they don’t generate NEW knowledge, since they are summaries of other studies.  Meta-analyses are also limited by the AMOUNT of data already published.  If few researchers have written about a topic, then a meta-analysis isn’t very effective or powerful.  (A meta-analysis on three studies involving only 25 total patients, for example).

Now that we’ve discussed the purpose and function of the meta-analysis, let’s discuss the results of Heneghan’s reported results.

Now, readers need to be very careful when reading blogs, and other articles like mine reporting results such as this – because this is filtered, third-hand information by the time it’s published on blogs, or newspaper articles.  (First source is the meta-analysis itself – which as we’ve discussed is actually a summary evaluation of other work).  Secondary is the Medscape article which summarizes and discusses the results of Heneghan’s study.

Now, that means that anything you read here is essentially third-hand information – if it’s based on the Medscape article.  That’s why we provide links to our sources here at Cartagena Surgery – so readers can read it all first-hand.  This is important because just like the children’s game of telephone, as information is passed from source to source, it is edited, filtered and subtly changed (for reasons of space, editorial preference etc.)

heneghan’s meta-analysis results showed significant reductions in weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and hemoglobinA1c (blood glucose levels) after bariatric surgery.  The Framingham risk score (a score developed based on the landmark Framingham study) which predicts the risk of cardiovascular events (heart attacks, strokes) also showed a significant reduction (which would be expected if all the risk factors such as hypertension were improved).

Framingham Risk Score Calculator

Now, a lot of readers might say, “Wait a minute – isn’t this self-evident?  If you lose weight – shouldn’t all of these things (glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol) improve?”

Yes .- logical reasoning suggests that they should – but in medicine we require hard data, in addition to logical reasoning (ie. A should lead to B versus a study with ten thouand patients proving A does lead to B.)

We need to be particularly careful when suggesting or assuming causality from treatments (surgery) for conditions.  A good example of this is liposuction.  Since liposuction involves the removal of subcutaneous fat – and may result a (a small amount) of weight loss – many consumers assumed that this limited weight loss conferred additional health benefits associated with traditional weight loss.  Wrong!

Sucking fat out of your behind (liposuction) will not lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood pressure and does not replace the health benefits of weight loss or exercise.  I can hear readers snickering now – but that’s because of my phrasing.  For years – many people, some health care providers themselves thought that weight loss, any weight loss lead to the above mentioned health benefits, and that included liposuction related weight loss.  It took several studies to disprove this.  So, in medicine – nothing is obvious – until we prove it is obvious!  (Remember: much of what was “obvious” in 1950’s medicine – is now considered absurd.)

Original Research Article Citation:

Heneghan HD, et al “Effect of bariatric surgery on cardiovascular risk profile” Am J Cardiol 2011; DOI:10.1016/j.amjcard.2011.06.076.  (abstract only – article for purchase).

Medpage Summary Article:

Bankhead, C. (2011). Medical News: Bariatric Surgery gets high marks for CVD risk reduction. Medpage Today.

Sleep Apnea in Bariatric Surgery patients: pre-operative evaluation

A new study (re-posted below) found that more than 85% of bariatric patients who had pre-operative evaluation before bariatric surgery had significant obstructive sleep apnea.  While the study was small (less than 400 patients), the findings of this study suggest two things:

1.  An evaluation for sleep apnea should be part of routine pre-operative evaluation but ALSO –

given the very high rates of sleep apnea with increasing BMI – and the increased risks of heart attack, pulmonary hypertension and other serious,  life-threatening consequences of untreated sleep apnea –

2.  Increase screening for obstructive sleep apnea in ALL obese patients. (during routine evaluations, and as part of pre-operative evaluation before any surgery requiring general anesthesia.)  [note: #2 is my personal recommendation – not the recommendation of the researchers presenting at this conference.  But as you’ll note below – the preliminary screening questionaire can be done relatively easily, and given the value of findings – additional testing is reasonable even in patients with negative responses to the questionaire.

Due to the strong link between apnea and cardiac events – in our practice, we screened each patient using a series of questions to both the patient and the patient’s significant other (after obtaining patient permission).

To the patient:  Do you snore?  Have you ever been told you snore?  Do you wake up tired, or feel sleepy during the day?

To significant other:  Does the patient snore?  Do you ever hear long pauses between breathing / snoring while the patient is sleeping? Do you ever think that he/she has stopped breathing?

(Then depending on circumstance, in-patient / out-patient – patients were informally screened using pulse oxymetry either in the cath lab or in the intensive care unit.)  This means – we had nurses monitor the patients during sleep:

– Noting each and every time the patient’s oxygen saturation dropped below 92%

– Alterations in heart rate

– Presence of absence of apnea sleeping patterns, snoring etc.

Since our patients were already in the hospital under nursing care (in either the cath lab, or hospital room) the nurses were able to do this easily as part of routine assessment, and monitoring, and there was no extra cost to our patients.

In our case, this information was used for post-surgical management.  After extubation, patients*  were frequently placed on bipap for several hours to reduce atelectasis, and reintubation.  In our at-risk patients, bipap was instituted as part of the sleep routine during their in-patient stay, with a pulmonary medicine referral, and evaluation for home CPAP therapy.  In this way, we were able to avoid expensive/ and time-consuming tests prior to surgery, and still effectively treat our patients. to determine the predictive value of having a spouse tell us, “sometimes I can’t sleep because I am worried he won’t start breathing again” as we’ve heard on multiple occasions.

In our experience, the significant other was best able to provide important diagnostic information.  Unfortunately, we haven’t recorded these findings as part of a research study

* this therapy was used independent of apnea status

Article Re-post: Presentation of a recent abstract at the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in Orlando, Florida

Sleep Test Needed Before Bariatric Surgery

-Charles Bankhead, reporter

ORLANDO  —  Most candidates for bariatric surgery have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), making a case for polysomnography as a part of the preoperative evaluation of every patient, investigators concluded.
Of 359 patients who had preoperative polysomnography, 86% had positive tests, which showed severe OSA in half of the cases.

The patients had a high prevalence of the sleep disorder across the range of body mass index (BMI) values represented by the patient population, although every patient in the highest BMI category (≥60) tested positive for OSA, as reported here at the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery meeting.

“Some people think that only patients in the highest BMI categories should be referred for polysomnography, because they are the patients who are most likely to have obstructive sleep apnea,” Abdul S. Bangura, MD, of Staten Island University Hospital in New York, told MedPage Today.

 Points to remember

  • Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Explain that most candidates for bariatric surgery have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), making a case for polysomnography as a routine part of the preoperative evaluation of every patient.
  • Note that every patient in the highest BMI category (≥60) had a polysomnographic test showing sleep apnea.

“However, our study showed a high prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in all BMI categories. Because of that, we think polysomnography is justified during the preoperative evaluation of all bariatric surgery patients, and that is the policy at our institution.”

Obesity substantially increases the risk of OSA, and studies have documented a high prevalence of OSA and other sleep-related breathing disorders among patients evaluated for bariatric surgery. Polysomnography remains the gold standard for diagnosis and assessment of OSA, but practices vary with regard to use of the sleep test in the preoperative evaluation of candidates for weight-loss surgery, said Bangura.

Moreover, patients and physicians alike find sleep tests inconvenient, time-consuming, and expensive, he continued.

At his own center, polysomnography is a routine component of the preoperative workup. However, other centers have adopted a selective approach to use of the sleep test, relying on the level of clinical suspicion of OSA to guide decision making.

“Various scoring systems have been used to screen for sleep apnea, but all of them remain controversial,” said Bangura. “There is currently no standard protocol for screening obese patients for OSA.”

To see whether a routine or selective approach to preoperative testing for OSA is more appropriate, Bangura and colleagues retrospectively reviewed records of all patients who had bariatric surgery procedures at their center from 2005 to 2010. They identified 555 patients, including 359 (65%) who underwent polysomnographic evaluations during their preoperative workup.

Investigators used the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) to categorize apnea severity, defining mild OSA as an AHI score of 5 to 15 events per hour; moderate as a score of 15 to 30; and severe as a score exceeding 30.

Of the 359 patients evaluated for OSA, 309 (86%) had positive tests, including some patients who had positive OSA tests prior to the preoperative evaluation for bariatric surgery. On the basis of AHI scores, 18% of the 359 patients had mild OSA, 17% had moderate OSA, and 51% had severe apnea.

Analysis of OSA prevalence by preoperative BMI showed that the following tested positive for OSA:

  • 34 of 37 (92%) patients with BMI values of 35 to 39.9
  • 178 of 218 (82%) of patients with BMI values of 40 to 49.9
  • 78 of 85 (92%) of patients with BMI values of 50 to 59.9
  • 100% of patients with BMI values of 60 or greater

“Based on these results, we consider routine polysomnography to be an essential part of the preoperative workup for all bariatric patients,” Bangura and colleagues concluded in their poster presentation.

Randomized controlled trials are required to provide evidence of guidelines on routine use of polysomnography as part of the workup for bariatric surgery patients, he said. Given the lack of a reliable prognostic system to predict OSA, the investigators urged consideration of routine polysomnography as part of the preoperative evaluation of all bariatric surgery candidates.

Diabetes – a global epidemic

New estimates on the rates of diabetes worldwide were reported in the general media this week.  As frightening as these numbers are – 36 million people in the USA, and over 348 million worldwide, I still think these numbers fall short of the mark.  This truly is a global pandemic, and as against federal ‘big brother’ regulations (and pro-personal freedoms) as I am – I do think that it has come to a critical point where the governments of these nations (ours included) need to step in.  We need to go against the big business of soft drinks, and the fast food giants to save our nation, and save ourselves from the heavy toll of obesity related disease.

Obviously, all the educational efforts and promotional campaigns to encourage healthy eating and activity are falling on deaf ears.  Much of the media attention is devoted to the plight of the poor with limited access to healthy habits such as safe areas to walk in inner cities, local grocery stores and the cost of fruits and vegetables in comparison to ‘super-value meals’  but the similarly bad (and deliberate) choices of the more privileged middle-class are ignored.

While I believe that people should take responsibility for their own actions (in all areas of life) we should no longer stand by and allow the damage that is being done to our younger generations.  Obesity among teens and children continues to rise due to poor dietary habits, and inactivity.    At this point;  ‘junk food’ should be regulated like cigarettes and alcohol.

Ten years ago – I would have rebelled as such government intrusion into American life, but ten years ago – I was still relatively new to the devastation caused by diabetes, obesity and related diseases.  These last years have been a crash course in human suffering and a primer in (potentially) avoidable disease.  It has also been eye-opening in terms of human behaviour – and amazing (to me) that serious complications such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart surgery still fail to motivate people to make even small changes in their lifestyles.

Much is made of new medications and treatments for diabetes – but we fail to grasp the essential truth; that we are eating ourselves to death and destroying mankind.  There is no pill for that.

While I generally try to remain upbeat here at Cartagena Surgery, the plague of Diabetes too large for even my sunny nature to overcome.

Gastric banding versus gastric bypass: Easy?

Another example in the realm of surgery where easiest doesn’t equal most effective: gastric banding (lap-band). This is one of those procedures highly touted in American medicine – and heavily advertised on television as an ‘easy’ way to lose weight..

First, let’s get some things clear – the ‘easy’ mentality needs to go away in medicine, and so does the pushing of this concept with patients.. None of this; not surgery, weight loss drugs, or conventional treatment is easy for the patient..It’s all hard work, so don’t mislead your patients – that sets them up for failure..

In the article linked here (from the LA times, February 2011) the two doctors interviewed do their best to avoid answering the easy/ effective question. “I let the patient decide,” which is a royal cop-out. Patients come to doctors for expert opinions and recommendations not wishy-washy information that doesn’t present the facts and evidence. The picture accompanying the article is disturbing as well, since it’s captioned as a patient awaiting lap-band.. The patient is clearly morbidly obese – yet is undergoing the least effective option available!

What makes this frustrating to me – is that in talking to patients – is that it’s usually such a long road to even get to bariatric surgery.. Contrary to popular belief and tabloid reporting, the majority of overweight people don’t jump to bariatric surgery.. These patients spend years (sometimes decades) dieting, gaining and losing weight..
This isn’t always the case in other countries where surgery is more readily available – but in the USA where insurance coverage or lack there of, usually dictates care – bariatric surgery is usually the end of a long, frustrating road..

I know I’ve discussed this before on the site – but I feel that there needs to be transparency in treatment options – and that we need to do away with the ‘easy’ concept whether it’s bariatric surgery, stents or even medications.. Don’t sell people easy – give them safe, proven and effective.

I’ll be updating the article over the next few days with links for more information – and hard facts about surgical options and obesity surgery.

Related Articles: Free full-text links: (my titles, the actual titles are a bit longer)

1. It’s Not Easy – a study looking at the patients perspective, and perceptions before and 2 years after bariatric surgery.

2. Current treatment guidelines and limitations – a discussion of current treatment guidelines in the USA and Canada

3. German study with 14 year outcomes after gastric banding – this is a nice study because they use terms that are easily understood for laypeople – and shows decent outcomes for patients with this procedure

4. Single port bariatric surgery – this has been a hot topic over at the sister site. This article discusses the most recent innovations in surgical techniques for bariatric surgery.

5. A review of the current data (2008) surrounding bariatric surgery, obesity, and diabetes and the cost of care.
This is a particularly good article (reviews often are) because it gives a nice summary of multiple other studies – so intead of reading about eight patients in Lebanon or some other small group – you are getting a good general overview..also it gives a good idea the scope of the problem..

I’m trying to collect a wide range of articles for patient education; unfortunately, since surgeons in Latin America are on the forefront of bariatric surgery – a lot of the most interesting articles are in Spanish and Portuguese (or paid articles). i haven’t posted the translations since they are secondary source and all of the other citations are primary source.

More Bariatrics please!

If you’ve been following my reports on then you know I’ve been meeting with bariatric surgeons across the city. Today I met with Dr. Richardo Nassar Bechara, who is the Chief of the Bariatric Surgery program at Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota. He is part of a comprehensive Obesity Clinic program which includes multiple specialties and comprehensive medical and surgical treatment for obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Right now he is preparing for the upcoming Latin American Congress on Obesity and Obesity Surgery so he has no surgery planned for several days. (Don’t worry – I’ll be going to the OR soon so I can report back to all of you.)

The program stresses lifestyle change and includes cardiology, endocrinology, physical therapy, nutrition, psychiatry and internal medicine.

Part of the program includes the VidActiva gym which offers personalized training programs with cardiovascular exercise, weight training, complimentary health services such as tai chi, dance, pilates, acupuncture and massage therapy. The clinic is staffed full-time with a sports medicine physician.

Today’s headlines: Obesity Kills

Everyone knows this already – but finally some scientists sat down and worked it out for the rest of us:  Obesity Kills!

Seems like a pretty timely article: Obesity Increases Risk of Deadly Heart Attacks – over on WebMD..

Here I am in Bogota, spending much of the week with Bariatric surgeons; discussing procedures, outcomes, meeting patients..

More news on Bariatric Surgery & Diabetes

I’ve re-posted the lastest medical article from medscape on Bariatric Surgery in Diabetes Mellitus.  As many of you know, I have a special interest in Bariatrics/ Diabetes due to the increased incidence of cardiovascular complications.  However, here in the USA – it’s easier to get cardiac bypass surgery then gastric bypass..

So – instead of helping people with real medical problems – we wait for drastic complications (heart attacks etc.)  Even then, society in general and medical society in particular can be rather judgemental about obese patients.  In stead of judging – make the information more available, and give people an opportunity to decide for themselves.

This is a straight cut and paste, with no editing or editorializing (except my comments above) for my interested readers.  Also – please let me know what other surgical procedures you are interested in hearing about and I will post articles with helpful information.

Authors and Disclosures :Journalist Daniel M Keller, PhD Daniel M. Keller is a freelance writer for Medscape. Daniel M. Keller has no disclosures.

From Medscape Medical News:

 Remission of Type 2 Diabetes Can Occur Within a Week of Gastric Bypass Surgery

Daniel M. Keller October 1, 2010 (Stockholm, Sweden) — Twelve patients with type 2 diabetes had improvements in insulin sensitivity and beta cell function just 1 week after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (RYGB), with concomitant reductions in fasting and 2-hour postprandial plasma glucose levels, compared with preoperative levels, according to a poster presentation here at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes 46th Annual Meeting. Lead author Nils Bruun Jørgensen, MD, from the Department of Endocrinology at Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark, showed evidence that the improvements in insulin sensitivity and beta cell function were associated with a 16-fold increase in secretion of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Type 2 diabetes patients with fasting plasma glucose of more than 7.0 mmol/L at the beginning of the study were given a mixed-meal tolerance test 1 to 3 days before and 4 to 6 days after surgery. The 200 mL, 1260 kJ liquid meal provided 15% of energy from protein, 50% from carbohydrate, and 35% from fat. The average age of the patients was 51.8 years, 7 were male, and they had diabetes for an average of 5.2 years. Significant reductions in fasting and in 120-minute postprandial plasma glucose levels occurred after surgery, compared with preoperative values (see table). Similarly, there were decreases in both fasting insulin and C-peptide serum levels. Subject Characteristics and Laboratory Values Before and After RYGB Surgery Variables Pre-RYGB Post-RYGB Change P value Glycated hemoglobin 7.0 ± 0.3 Fasting plasma glucose (mmol/L) 8.8 ± 0.7 7.0 ± 0.3 –21.2% .005 120-min plasma glucose (mmol/L) 11.4 ± 0.8 8.2 ± 0.7 –28.5% <.001 Fasting serum insulin (pmol/L) 132 ± 22 73 ± 9 –44.6% .006 Fasting serum C-peptide (pmol/L) 1542 ± 151 1175 ± 172 –23.8% <.001 Weight (kg) 129.8 ± 4 127 ± 3.8 –2.2% .001 Body mass index (kg/m2) 43.3 ± 1.5 42.4 ± 1.5 –2.1% .001 Waist (cm) 130.8 ± 2.9 131.3 ± 2.6 0.4% .734 Hip (cm) 121.0 ± 2.9 118 ± 2.7 –2.5% .051 Using the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), Dr. Jørgensen determined that insulin resistance decreased by 54%, from 6.9 ± 1.0 before to 3.2 ± 0.43 after RYGB (P = .001). The Matsuda Index, a measure of tissue insulin sensitivity, increased in parallel with the decrease in insulin resistance, going from 2.58 ± 0.38 before to 4.16 ± 0.55 after RYGB (P = .01). “We also looked at the C-peptide levels in response to the meal, and although we couldn’t show any significant difference in the individual postprandial sample points, what we did get was an impression of the changed secretion dynamics, and we could show an increased incremental area under the curve for C-peptide,” he said. The area under the curve of concentration for C-peptide over time increased significantly after surgery (P = .04). The disposition index, a measure of the relation between the sensitivity of beta cells to glucose and tissue sensitivity to insulin, “improved dramatically,” according to the investigators. “We found a significant increase in the beta cell function, and when we related this to the ambient insulin resistance, we found a 3-fold increase in the disposition index,” according to Dr. Jørgensen — from 54 ± 12 before to 157 ± 30 after RYGB (P = .001). To determine the underlying cause of these improvements, the researchers investigated secretion of incretins, and “found a significant and very dramatic increase in the GLP-1 secretion after surgery,” he said. GLP-1 peak plasma levels increased 5.6-fold after surgery, compared with preoperative values (P < .001), and the incremental area under the curve for plasma GLP-1 was 16 times greater after than before RYGB (P < .001). There was no observed change in gastric inhibitory polypeptide. In conclusion, “gastric bypass surgery significantly reduced fasting plasma glucose levels and 2-hour postprandial glucose levels. These changes were associated with increased insulin sensitivity and beta cell function, and may involve the increased secretion of GLP-1,” Dr. Jørgensen told the audience. Discussion leader Ele Ferrannini, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Pisa Medical School in Italy, asked Dr. Jørgensen about the potential influence of caloric deprivation on the findings, “which would mimic these data almost perfectly,” Dr. Ferrannini said. Dr. Jørgensen replied that he could not dissect such a proposed mechanism from the results he saw after RYGB. Dr. Ferrannini noted that the literature contains studies of patients with type 2 diabetes who were subjected to low-calorie diets in the range used in this study. “And their findings, with the exception of the release of GLP-1, were precisely what is here, so this is a confounder in this particular finding,” he said. An audience member noted that the patients in this study had diabetes for an average of a little more than 5 years, and wondered what would be the result if one performed RYGB on patients who had their disease and had been on insulin much longer, in essence, questioning whether there would be enough preserved beta cell function to see effects similar to those in this study. Dr. Ferrannini replied that “there is evidence that . . . the longer the duration of diabetes, . . . the lower the remission rate, particularly if you look a year later. Any diabetic will go into remission if you starve them, but when they start eating again [after they lost weight], a year later or 2 years later, some will be in remission, others will not be in remission or will be halfway between remission and nonremission. Those that have had the disease the longest . . . may relapse if they remitted initially.” “And then to the point of the insulin secretion — it’s true that it’s not really very much higher, but this is in the face of lower glucose levels. So if you construct a kind of relationship between the insulin and the concomitant glucose levels, there will be an input, and this can be attributed also to the GLP-1. What you cannot ascribe to the increased GLP-1 levels is any improvement in insulin sensitivity, because of a lack of evidence that GLP-1 has any influence on insulin action,” Dr. Ferrannini said.

Dr. Jørgensen reports that his doctoral studies were partially funded by Novo Nordisk, and that 2 of his coauthors are Novo Nordisk employees. Dr. Ferrannini has disclosed no relevant financial relationships. European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) 46th Annual Meeting: Abstract 668. Presented September 23, 2010. Medscape Medical News © 2010 WebMD, LLC

Bariatric surgery in the medical news

New article on Medscape (a medical literature website for health care providers) discussing the benefits of bariatric surgery.  In this article they cite a surgery cost of at least $30,000 which is out of reach for many of the people who need it;  as morbid obesity and related complications push up health care costs for individuals.

I’ve posted the link for you to read it for yourself:

this website does require registration, (which I think is free.)

But as my readers know, there are more cost-effective alternatives, as mentioned in the entire chapter devoted to bariatric surgery in Cartagena.

As readers know, in that chapter, I introduce you to one of Latin America’s most famous surgeons, Dr. Holguin, a former trauma surgeon at Maryland’s Shock Trauma hospital in Baltimore, MY in addition to several other excellent surgeons.  Most North Americans don’t know it but Cartagena is fast gaining a reputation for excellence in bariatric surgery, and is becoming a destination of choice for gastric bypass, lap-band, sleeve resection and other bariatric surgery procedures.