Local News

Bariatric Surgery Patients Urged To Study Doctors' Credentials

Posted March 17, 2005

— This year, an estimated 120,000 people will turn to bariatric surgery to lose weight. For most, it is a last resort -- a procedure that could add many years to their lives. However, some bad choices in surgeons or surgical centers could only add to your problems.

Church receptionist Bonna Bowen used to weigh 286 pounds. The decision to have gastric bypass surgery came after a lot of prayer and careful research. Bowen checked out surgeon backgrounds, their experience and track record with patients.

Dr. Kenneth Mitchell, Bowen's surgeon, encourages patients to check the surgeon's credentials and bariatric training.

"Previous patients, their results, their happiness or displeasure with the program," Mitchell said.

Any red flags may lead to what dozens of patients in Wilmington experienced. They allege Dr. Steven Olchowski promised them the more common and successful form of bariatric surgery -- a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Instead, he gave them a mini-gastric bypass.

"It can be a shortcut. The technique for this operation is easier to master than the technique for a Roux-en-Y," Mitchell said.

In both procedures, the patient is left with a small pouch for a stomach. With Roux-en-Y, the surgeon attaches a portion of the small intestine to the pouch. Stomach juices flow down through a second attachment, further down the intestinal tract.

In a mini bypass, a loop of the intestine is attached to the pouch, in such a way that strong digestive juices could wash into the pouch and up the esophagus.

"It can cause irritation known as bile-reflex gastritis," Mitchell said.

It is recommended that you also check into a surgeon's standing with the State Medical Board with professional medical societies and with the hospitals they have worked in.

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