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Malpractice Charges Hit Surgeons Involved In Controversial Weight Loss Procedure

Many overweight Americans consider gastric bypass surgery, if they feel they are unable to lose weight simply through diet and exercise. However all surgery carries risk of damage and death, even if at a low rate. Laparoscopic surgery is no exception to this.

Contrary to some propaganda, the gastric bypass operation is fairly difficult, and is best left to surgeons who specialize in it. Some hospitals have surgeons performing the operation after a weekend training session where an experienced surgeon may have had them participate in it once or twice. This inexperience can lead to many problems during surgery.

What is involved in the surgery?

The gastric bypass involves placing a band around the stomach in order to reduce the size of the area, therefore limiting the amount of food that can be ingested at any time.

The operation also makes the food bypass part of the small intestine. Overweight people who have this operation lose weight rapidly, particularly in the first 12 months after the operation

A laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision through which doctors can observe the insides of a patient and operate on him.

The advantage of this type of surgery is that the incision into the body is keyhole size, and when done properly there is an extremely rapid recovery from the surgery. It is an alternative to traditional intestinal and stomach surgery that involves an inches long incision into the body that takes weeks to heal.

When surgeons started taking out gallbladders laparoscopically in the early 1990s, hundreds of patients filed malpractice claims. This was due to the poor training of the doctors practicing the surgery.

The same thing is likely to occur now with the growing popularity of weight-loss surgery.

A study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the March issue of Archives of Surgery has found that the risk of complications associated with weight-loss surgery increase with the age of the patient.

Many factors can complicate this surgery, and there is currently a death rate as high as 3 in 200 cases of weight-loss surgery. Approximately 8 million Americans suffer extreme obesity, and of those, 150,000 had gastric bypass surgery in 2004 alone.