Local News

WakeMed Puts Gastric Bypass Surgeries On Hold

Posted November 17, 2003

— What some consider a life-saving procedure has been put on hold at a local hospital.

WakeMed has canceled all gastric bypass surgeries, pending a review.

WakeMed is known for its trauma and cardiac centers. Under a new CEO, the hospital is trying to determine if continuing gastric bypass surgeries is worth the risk.

The surgery is an elective procedure. But people who want the surgery, and those who have had it, say the risks are worth it.

Jerry Morris weighed 580 pounds two years. He has lost 319 pounds since having gastric bypass surgery.

"I think it is one of the greatest things I ever had done," Morris said.

Glennda McKeithan wants to follow in Morris' path. She already has spent close to $8,000 on pre-operative tests. Insurance also will help.

Having the procedure is very important to McKeithan.

"I want to see my son grow up," she said. "I want to live. It's really about being healthy and extending my life."

But McKeithan's gastric bypass surgery was canceled by WakeMed just two days before she was to have the operation.

"For us, it is still a relatively new procedure," WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said.

Atkinson said all gastric bypass surgeries have been canceled pending a hospital review of its resources and the procedure.

"As the area's only trauma center and the major cardiac center, our first priority will always be those procedures and these patients that have life- or limb-threatening illnesses," he said.

As for McKeithan, she's holding out hope for the surgery. She and others plan to start a letter-writing campaign.

In the meantime, Dr. Atkinson said the hospital will put together a study group made up of doctors and other staff. They expect to make a recommendation to the hospital Board of Directors by next February.

About 100,000 people nationwide are expected to have gastric bypass surgery this year. The mortality rate for this surgery ranges from 1 to 2 percent.

Complications usually occur because of a pre-existing health problem. After surgery, the most common problem is leaking from the site.

Monday at 11 p.m., WRAL will introduce viewers to a woman who lost 100 pounds as a result of gastric bypass surgery.


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