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Obesity: The medical complications of excessive body fat and GBMC’s smart solutions


Korey Karnes Huyler for Greater Baltimore Medical Center

March 4, 2021
Diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea. Hypertension. Hypercholesterolemia. Depression. Anxiety.

These are just some of the dangerous medical complications of obesity, according to Dr. Elizabeth A. Dovec, MD, FACS, FASMBS, a bariatric surgeon, bariatrician and medical director at Greater Baltimore Medical Center’s Comprehensive Obesity Management Program, or COMP.

“Obesity is an epidemic with sobering statistics and terrifying upward trends,” she says. “Obesity has a negative impact on every aspect of our lives — health, lifespan and quality. It’s currently the number two cause of preventable death — and it’s trending to become the first.”

What is the treatment for obesity?

Obesity, which is defined by a body mass index of 30 or higher, affects thousands of Maryland residents, many of whom choose GBMC for their surgical weight-loss solutions. For GBMC’s COMP, morbidly obese patients may qualify for some form of bariatric surgery:
  • With a BMI between 35 and 39.9 and suffering from one or more comorbid conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, osteoarthritis, hypertension, or obstructive sleep apnea
  • With a BMI greater than 40.
However, weight-loss surgery often has a stigma attached, explains Dr. Dovec.

“Think about your own thoughts about weight loss surgery. You may think these people are just lazy, lack willpower or are taking the easy way out. Obesity is associated with embarrassment and shame. Having to have surgery is perceived as the ultimate level of humiliation. We need to change that,” she says. “Weight loss surgery is effective; however, it requires commitment, dedication, hard work, and grit to achieve sustainable results.”

So, what are the surgical options?

The most common surgeries are gastric bypass (when your stomach decreases in size from a football to a thumb via a surgical procedure that divides your stomach into two sections) and a sleeve gastrectomy (when a surgeon removes approximately 75% of the stomach). At GBMC, both surgeries are performed through minimally invasive techniques, also known as laparoscopic surgery.

“These are minimally invasive procedures done through tiny incisions,” Dr. Dovec explains. She says laparoscopic surgery results in a shorter length of stay and fewer post-operative complications and pain.

“My mission in life is to normalize bariatric surgery,” she says. “Bariatric surgery is the fastest growing surgical specialty, and approximately 250,000 morbidly obese Americans have surgery.”

Dr. Dovec explains that weight loss surgery can decrease or eliminate many of the medical issues a patient is facing. “Bariatric surgery should be highlighted as the most effective and durable treatment for morbid obesity,” she says. “Around 85% of patients will succeed in staying healthy and keeping their weight off. Surgery results in significant weight loss and helps prevent, improve, or resolve more than 40 obesity-related diseases or conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and certain cancers.”

In addition, Dr. Dovec points out that both quality and quantity of life are affected by a person’s weight. Surgery can help improve both.

“It's time to feature the facts about bariatric surgery,” Dr. Dovec says. “None of us are immune to this terrible disease. Remember, by doing your homework, you could save a life, and it might be your own.”
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