No fads, no judgment, just sound medical ways to lose weight and keep it off

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Another common nonsurgical procedure offered at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center for weight loss is Endoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy. This procedure uses an endoscopic suturing device to reduce the size of the stomach and removes the portion of the stomach where hunger hormones are generated. Director of the Bariatric Surgery Program Dr. Leena Khaitan and her team are shown here performing an endoscopy. (Photography: Felicia Vargo)

By Laura Briedis

Every year, America’s waistline keeps getting bigger and bigger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity prevalence in the United States has increased to 42%.

“Obesity is the other pandemic,” says Dr. Leena Khaitan, director of the Bariatric Surgery Program at University Hospitals. “Covid-19 has killed millions of Americans but the second-most common cause of preventable death is obesity. Despite our awareness of how it causes adverse health issues, obesity in America continues to rise.”

The key is that obesity is preventable, and the weight loss specialists at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, a campus of UH Regional Hospitals, are here to help. The multidisciplinary team of doctors and surgeons, behavioral specialists and nutrition experts, works together to offer proven solutions for losing weight and keeping it off.

“We bring a nonjudgmental approach to weight loss to help patients facilitate their goals,” says Dr. Khaitan. “Your weight affects your health—both your physical and mental well-being—and when you are at a healthier weight you are less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, infertility and other health issues. It is important to empower our patients to have control over all aspects of their life so they can be healthier.”

The doctors consult with each patient to discuss the multiple weight loss options, from nutritional counseling and weight loss medications to nonsurgical endoscopic procedures and bariatric surgery.

“One of our most successful nonsurgical options is the Intragastric Balloon procedure, where a balloon filled with saline is placed in the stomach. When patients eat, they get full quickly and are consuming less food,” says Dr. Khaitan.

The balloon is left in the stomach for six months, but even after it is removed patients are still reaping the benefits as they are used to eating less food. Coupled with nutritional counseling, these results can last for years as new, better eating habits are formed.

“We have had great results with this procedure in which patients average 30 to 50 pounds of weight loss,” notes Dr. Khaitan.

Dr. Leena Khaitan, Director of the Bariatric Surgery Program

The other emerging nonsurgical procedure is Endoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy. This weight loss procedure uses an endoscopic suturing device to reduce the size of the stomach, making it more of a tube shape, and 80% smaller than it normally is. It also removes the portion of the stomach where hunger hormones are generated, which results in a decreased appetite.

For those patients who have not had long-term success with other weight loss efforts, bariatric surgery may be the best option.

To qualify for bariatric surgery, a person must have a Body Mass Index (BMI)—a measurement of body fat relative to height and weight—of 40 or higher, or over 35 with comorbidity. The enodoscopic procedures are for patients with a BMI of 30-40. “Bariatric surgery is truly one of the safest operations we do, with very few complications,” states Dr. Khaitan. “It has a 90% success rate of greater than 50% excess weight loss maintained over five years.”

Dr. Khaitan, who also is a professor of surgery and interim general surgery division chief, was instrumental in building the bariatric program at UH.

After graduating from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, she did her fellowship at Vanderbilt University, worked at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and then joined UH Geauga Medical Center in 2007, where she helped build the bariatric program from scratch. Today, the program spans three UH locations performing 500 bariatric surgeries a year.

“Weight loss is a very personal journey and it is different for every person,” she says. “I love being able to help my patients gain a higher level of confidence and be the person they really want to be.”

Learn more about how weight loss management can change—or save—your life by calling 440-629-4053 or by visiting UH Geauga Medical Center is located at 13207 Ravenna Road, in Chardon.