Two Bariatric Surgery Patients Who Lost a Collective 220 Pounds Prepare for Upcoming Holiday Celebrations Without "Weighty" Concerns

November 30, 2006

Patients, Physicians Discuss Life-Altering Surgeries and North Shore University Hospital's Designation as a Bariatric Center of Excellence

For those fighting a daily battle with controlling their appetites, the holidays can be a frustrating time, both physically and psychologically. For patients who have undergone bariatric surgery, the feasting that usually occurs between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly challenging time.

At a news conference today celebrating North Shore University Hospital's designation as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, three patients of center co-directors Dominick Gadaleta, MD, and Larry Gellman, MD, were proud to publicly describe themselves as 'big losers', now that they are a collective 220 pounds lighter since their bariatric surgeries.

Bariatric surgeons Dominick Gadaleta, MD, left, and Larry Gellman, MD, right, joined patients Karen Espada of Queens and Mitchell Horowitz of Plainview in celebrating North Shore University Hospital's designation as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. Between the two of them, Ms. Espada and Mr. Horowitz lost about 200 pounds, about four times more than the 50-found tray of fat in the foreground.

Thanks to the expertise of their surgeons, Karen Espada of Glendale, and Mitchell Horowitz of Plainview say they are looking forward to the upcoming holiday season (and the accompanying food frenzy) with great confidence. Their surgeries were two of more than 1,500 that Drs. Gadaleta and Gellman have performed since starting the hospital's bariatric program in 1997.

"North Shore University Hospital is now among a select group of 191 hospitals throughout the United States to be recognized as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, bolstering our growing reputation as a national destination for innovative surgery," said Dennis Dowling, the hospital's executive director.

NSUH is the only hospital in Nassau County with the distinction of having two surgeons certified by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. "Obesity is fast becoming the nation's most serious public health crisis, with more than 23 million Americans considered morbidly obese, including thousands here on Long Island," said Dr. Gadaleta. "This Center of Excellence designation opens the door for many individuals who are struggling to find a life-saving solution to their obesity."

In February 2006, Medicare expanded its national coverage to include bariatric surgery for all beneficiaries. Numerous other insurers also require hospitals and surgeons to attain a 'center of excellence' designation before they will agree to reimburse for the cost of surgery deemed medically necessary.

For those with a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 40 who exceed their ideal body weight by more than 100 pounds, bariatric surgery is often the only effective treatment. Individuals who have a BMI of 35 or are more than 75 pounds overweight are also prone to obesity-related illnesses and considered candidates for bariatric surgery.

"Diabetes, hypertension and pulmonary disorders such as sleep apnea are just a few of the life- threatening diseases facing obese individuals," said Dr. Gellman. "This new designation affirms that we have a complete spectrum of services and resources available to provide our patients with the best care and attention, and help them achieve a better quality of life."

In reviewing the hospital's request for certification, the American Society for Bariatric Surgery took into account such factors as the training received by surgeons, the short- and long-term results experienced by bariatric patients, the availability and quality of other clinical and support services to help ensure successful outcomes, and the office and staff resources in place to deal with the physical and emotional needs of the morbidly obese.

For instance, the hospital provides highly specialized nursing and support services for bariatric surgery patients. Nurses organize support group meetings for patients prior to their surgeries and work collaboratively with respiratory therapists, nutritionists and other specialists to ensure patients receive the care they need while in the hospital and after they are discharged.

The bariatric surgery floor at NSUH is managed by a hand-picked group of nursing staff, specially trained to assess and detect signs of complications after surgery, and act pre-emptively. Among the physical resources hospitals must have to become a center of excellence include enlarged furniture, beds, scales, wheelchairs and operating tables, as well as a computed tomography (CT) system and other diagnostic equipment strong and wide enough to support the severely obese.

For the two patients who participated in today's news conference, the surgeries have transformed their lives: Ms. Espada underwent laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery in June 2005. Over the past 1 1/2 years, she has lost a total of 140 pounds. She was once a size 22, and now she fluctuates between an 8 and a 10. She said she decided to have bariatric surgery because she was always tired and in pain. Also, she had a young child, and she said she felt that being thinner would allow her to be a better mother.

Mr. Horowitz, had full gastric bypass surgery in August 2004. At his heaviest, he weighed 355; he is now down to 275. He estimates he has lost about 80 pounds since the surgery. He said he now has more energy for his children. Previously, he said, he was always feeling tired and lethargic.

Media Contact:
Michelle Pinto
Terry Lynam
(516) 465-2600

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May 18, 2010
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