Health Team

Endoscopic procedure costs less, offers faster recovery than weight-loss surgery

Posted August 16, 2018 5:33 p.m. EDT

— The Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimates that 18 million adults in the U.S. qualify for weight-loss surgery, but only about 1 percent actually do it. The length of recovery and cost concerns are the main reasons more people don't have such procedures, the group says.

WakeMed Cary now offers a nonsurgical procedure that may help more people escape obesity.

"No incisions, fast recovery – this is a same-day outpatient procedure," gastroenterologist Dr. Chris McGowan said of endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, or ESG.

Instead of incisions, stapling and removing parts of the stomach, a tiny camera and tools allow McGowan to go down a patient's throat with a needle and thread. Specialized tools mark out guidelines in the stomach, sutures are placed in triangular patterns and the area is cinched together.

Stomach size is reduced by 70 to 80 percent.

"It will heal in that position, and it stays. We know that from multiple studies," McGowan said.

Louisa Petty had ESG in May and has lost 43 pounds since then.

"I had it on a Thursday and went back to work that Tuesday. So it was a short down time," Petty said.

Her weight problem was like that of many others who have tried losing pounds the traditional way.

"I tried several diets, different yo-yo diets where I go up and go down," she said.

A mother of two, the 37-year-old said ESG has changed her life.

"I have more energy," she said. "I went down six pants sizes since I had it, so I have the energy to do pretty much anything."

Weight loss surgery can cost $25,000 to $35,000, while ESG costs about $11,000 at WakeMed. But because it's relatively new in the U.S., many insurance plans don't cover ESG.

Aside from insurance coverage, McGowan said, ESG will not replace the surgical option for many patients.

"For patients who have maybe major medical problems – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – they may still benefit more from the surgical procedure," he said.