Dr. Dieter Pohl, a weight-loss surgery expert, is director of general surgery at Roger Williams Medical Center, which is a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. He received his medical training at the University of Cologne Germany. He is licensed to practice medicine in New York, Washington, and Rhode Island. He hosts monthly seminars about weight loss surgery at Roger Williams Medical Center; the next one is Wednesday, July 2, from 6 to 9 p.m., in the hospital’s Kay Auditorium.
PBN: About what percentage of chronically overweight people are candidates for weight-loss surgery?
POHL: Approximately one in four adults in Rhode Island is overweight. About five percent of Rhode Islanders are morbidly obese, which would total approximately 50,000 people. These are the individuals who could potentially benefit from surgery.
PBN: What are some signs that people should know about suggesting that it’s worth consulting with a doctor about the surgery?
POHL: One of the key measurements is the person’s Body Mass Index or BMI. A person with a BMI of 40 or higher should consider weight loss surgery. That measurement is important because a person can be perceived as healthy but still be at a much greater risk for diabetes, heart disease or cancer because of their BMI. Anyone with a BMI of 35 or higher who suffers from one or more weight-related problems should consider weight loss surgery. The surgical approach has proven to be a successful one with a vast majority of patients. The long-term success rate for patients maintaining significant weight loss is between 70 and 80 percent. In some patients, weight loss surgery can cure medical problems including diabetes.
PBN: In what ways has weight-loss surgery evolved during the last decade?
POHL: It is much less invasive with post-surgery hospital stays now averaging one or two days. The procedures are standardized and the risks have markedly decreased. Almost all surgeries are laparoscopic, which accounts for the quicker recovery times we are seeing. When patients are choosing a provider for weight loss surgery, they should look for those that have been designated as a Center of Excellence by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. This designation helps patients identify where they can expect to receive safer and more effective weight loss surgery. Centers of Excellence like the one at Roger Williams Medical Center also show improved patient outcomes and satisfaction.
PBN: Do more women or men get the procedure done?
POHL: About 70 percent of those who get the surgery are women.
PBN: What are the age limits for the surgery, if any, on both the lower and the higher end?
POHL: I do not have an upper age limit and have operated on people in their seventies. In many older individuals, the surgery gives them 10 or more years of a dramatically improved quality of life. I am not a pediatric surgeon so I don’t operate on patients younger than 18 years of age, but there are programs specifically for adolescents.