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A guide to weight loss surgery; Upstate bariatrics experts on track for busiest year ever

Measuring tape around waist

If you or someone you care about is considering weight loss surgery, choosing a surgeon and a hospital with a track record is crucial.

Upstate University Hospital‘s weight loss surgery program has been in place since the 1970s, and has the most experienced surgeons in Central New York.  So far in 2012, they have operated on 197 patients and expect that their caseload may reach 500 by year's end. Last year, Upstate performed 472 bariatric surgeries, almost three times the volume at other nearby hospitals.

The Upstate surgical team trains doctors who will become weight loss surgeons, and they are involved in research related to weight loss. The program is comprehensive, meaning it includes in-house dietitians and pre- and post-operative services, and it serves as the region‘s tertiary center, meaning it welcomes referrals of patients with complications.

Simon, Howard

Howard Simon MD

Howard Simon MD is director of Upstate's Bariatric Surgery Center. He was already an experienced surgeon when he began offering laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery at Upstate in 2002. Taewan Kim MD was a fellow then. Today, Simon has completed more than 2,000 cases, and Kim has completed more than 1,000, making them the most experienced laparoscopic weight loss surgeons in Central New York.

Their patients range in age from the late teens to the late 60s. Many have diabetes, which usually resolves after surgery. Many also see improvement in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, and women are likely to experience improved fertility.

Kim, Taewan

Taewan Kim MD

The gastric bypass used to take six to eight hours. Today, Simon and Kim usually complete the surgery in an hour. They hand sew the jejunum to the stomach, which keeps their leak rate low. Nationally 2 to 3 percent of gastric bypass patients experience leakage; at Upstate, leaks affect fewer than ¼ percent, Simon says. Other surgical weight loss procedures are available; surgeons tailor the operation to the individual patient.

The majority of weight loss surgeries today are minimally invasive procedures, accomplished through a few tiny holes. Most of the surgeries done in the traditional “open” style are patients who have had previous stomach surgeries.

After surgery, patients start consuming liquids and then soft foods before they are able to eat a regular diet – just smaller portions than they were used to.

Click below to listen to Central New York's surgical weight loss experts:

Bariatrics Program Coordinator Denise Smith: Is weight loss surgery for you?

Surgeons Howard Simon MD and Taewan Kim MD: What to expect from surgery

Registered dietitian Kerry Dal: Making the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes

Patient Anthony Curcio: A personal story of weight loss surgery

Bariatrics Chef Dave Fouts: Eating well after weight loss surgery

Read about your surgical weight loss options:

Which procedure is right for you? from Upstate Health magazine

 Learn about Upstate's Central New York Bariatric Surgery Center