Los Robles Hospital Opens a Weight-Loss Surgery Center


Los Robles Hospital Opens a Weight-Loss Surgery Center

  • By Hannah Guzik Special to The Star
  • Posted December 27, 2013 at 2:13 p.m.

Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center is hoping to become a top destination for people seeking weight-loss surgery in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The Thousand Oaks hospital opened a Center for Weight Loss Surgery this month, offering three types of bariatric surgery for obese patients.

“It’s a growing problem, but the more we know the more we realize it’s complex and we know there are a lot of barriers to access to bariatric care,” said Dr. Donald Waldrep, a bariatric surgeon and co-director of the center. “There are a lot of misconceptions about it and this really provides a resource for the community.”

Waldrep and Dr. Amir Mehran, also a bariatric surgeon and co-director of the center, have been performing bariatric surgeries for a number of years in the Thousand Oaks area and focus on minimally invasive surgery.

The center offers gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and gastric banding surgeries, all of which are designed to reduce the size of the stomach, thus reducing the amount of food patients can eat. Gastric bypass surgery also bypasses part of the intestinal tract.

The procedures are typically performed laparoscopically, or through small incisions in the abdomen.

“A lot of doctors here in the area are treating overweight patients or obese patients, but they’re not treating obesity itself, because of limitations of time and access,” said Waldrep, who said he’s performed more than 3,000 bariatric surgeries over the past 14 years. “Now they’ll have more definitive and impactful treatments available.”

It is estimated that more than half of people in the U.S. will be considered obese by 2030, according to the hospital.

Those who fit certain health criteria can be considered for gastric surgery. Typically, insurance companies that cover weight-loss surgery require patients to be morbidly obese, Waldrep said.

Gastric surgery can cause blood clots, gastrointestinal leaks and other problems, so candidates must be carefully screened. In rare cases, death occurs.

Doctors determine obesity using body mass index, a calculation based on a person’s weight and height. A BMI over 25 is considered overweight and one over 30 is considered obese. Morbid obesity occurs in those with BMIs over 40, or those who have BMIs over 35 and other health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or sleep apnea.

Those who are morbidly obese face higher risks of other health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, infertility and depression. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Thousand Oaks center, which also offers nutrition counseling and psychosocial support, is able to take on a high volume of patients and perform as many as 20 surgeries a week, Waldrep said.

In the coming months, the center will hire bariatric nurses and clinicians to help care for patients, he said. The center also will offer online support services for patients.

In addition to performing surgeries on morbidly obese patients, Waldrep is exploring offering weight-loss surgery to those who fall beneath the traditional guidelines but who have not been able to lose weight another way, he said.

“There are more procedures being performed and investigated for those lower-weight patients who are still overweight and still have health risks but are kind of in a gray area,” he said.

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