Surgeons perform new weight loss surgery

Gastric plication procedure folds stomach instead of cutting

The concept behind the Japanese art of origami is inspiring a new form of weight loss surgery.

Surgeons are trying develop a new approach to help obese patients lose weight.  The latest experimental procedure is called stomach plication.

"Instead of dividing the stomach, in gastric plication, we take the stomach and we fold it in upon itself," said Dr. Garth Jacobsen, assistant professor of surgery at the University of California San Diego. 

Unlike gastric bypass surgery, stomach plication is, in theory, reversible.  It's performed laproscopically through small incisions.

Surgeons don't use permanent staples to decrease the size of the stomach, and they don't reroute the small intestine.  

"What we are seeking to do is to minimize that risk," said Jacobsen. 

The procedure can reduce the stomach's size by as much as 70 percent, but experts caution, it's still a surgery with significant risks, including intestinal obstruction, separation of the stitched areas and perforation, which can cause bowel contents to leak into the abdomen.

Some patients also experience gastric reflux, although doctors said that decreases over time.

Another major downside -- because it's still experimental, unlike some other weight loss surgeries, the cost of stomach plication is not covered by insurance.

"I'm not sure that this procedure is going to be a replacement for most standard procedures, but it could be.  We're still early on in the investigation, but we like the option of leaving the patient's native anatomy intact," said Jacobsen.

The procedure is being tested in obese patients whose attempts at weight loss have been unsuccessful and who are willing to make major lifestyle changes.

Courtney Gileo is one of those patients.  She decided to undergo stomach plication after her weight climbed from 120 pounds to 330 pounds.

Gileo has lost 40 pounds in five weeks.

"I'm not hungry. I don't have the same hunger signals," said Gileo.

Surgeons said most patients can expect to lose two pounds per week with stomach plication.

For now, the procedure is only being offered as a part of a clinical trial at a few selected institutions.

To learn more about stomach plication at the University of California San Diego, click here.

To learn more about stomach plication at the Cleveland Clinic, click here.

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