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Upstate's bariatric surgery team acquires new body composition analyzer to monitor patient progress

Bariatric Surgery Division Chief Flavia C. Soto, MD, (left) stands with Upstate’s new body composition analyzer, with medical office assistants Tamara Jacobs and Candace Brown

The Upstate University Hospital Bariatric Surgery Team has acquired a new, high-tech tool that more accurately measures a person’s body composition, which should better prepare patients for bariatric surgery and its subsequent life changes.

The body composition analyzer can provide Upstate doctors and dieticians with a precise breakdown of a person’s body makeup. Among the things it can measure are a person’s fat mass, muscle mass—broken down into six parts: whole body, torso, left and right arms, left and right legs—water composition, abdominal fat and more. It can also determine how many daily calories a person needs in order to lose or maintain weight.

Bariatric Surgery Division Chief Flavia C. Soto, MD, was instrumental in bringing the new device to Upstate.

“This is state-of-the-art equipment,” she said. “I consider this the best in the market. The beauty is we can provide this to the community. There is no other equipment of this caliber in the area.”

Upstate’s body composition analyzer is like a scale but with handlebars and a chest high touch-screen display. The scan does not require any preparation other than an empty bladder. Patients stand barefoot on embedded metal sensors and grip the handlebars with elbows extended. The analyzer uses a technology called bioelectrical impedance, which sends a small, undetectable electronic current up one leg, through the torso and then down the other leg. Patients must hold still during the scan, which is complete in about 15 seconds.

The device will be used with patients who are considering or are scheduled for bariatric surgery, which is a surgical procedure on the stomach or intestines to induce weight loss. Most insurances now require a six-month preparation period before a patient can have bariatric surgery, Soto said. During that time, patients meet with a dietician monthly to set weight-loss goals and discuss lifestyle changes. Each appointment will now include a scan on the device to track the patient’s progress.

“We can really see how they are doing with the results,” Soto said. “Then we are able to tailor the treatment to the patient based on his or her own information.”

After each scan patients are given a printout of the results, which includes precise breakdowns of the person’s body composition. Those details—especially when tracked over time—can help the patient see progress, feel confident about the surgery and be more successful long-term.

“The patients love it,” she said. “Sometimes it looks like a bunch of numbers but once we translate it for them it will make sense. The evidence shows that it keeps them engaged in the process and their own success.

“This is no magic. It’s all evidence-based.”

Soto said the device can also measure hydration and inflammation, two factors that can affect how a person does during surgery.

For a long time the standard measure of a person’s physical makeup was body mass index, or BMI, which is calculated using a person’s height and weight. BMIs can determine if a person is overweight or obese—conditions that may make a person a candidate for bariatric surgery. But they aren’t always the most accurate as a person with a high muscle mass will have a high BMI but might not be overweight. The new device measures much more than BMI alone, she said.

Upstate’s new tool will help Soto and her team continue to change lives.

“I see the transformation of these patients,” she said. “Six months later they can do things they couldn’t do before. They enjoy life differently and it is very rewarding to see that.”

Caption: Bariatric Surgery Division Chief Flavia C. Soto, MD, (left) stands with Upstate’s new body composition analyzer, which provides patients with a more accurate breakdown of fat, muscle, water, etc. With her are medical office assistants Tamara Jacobs and Candace Brown.