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LAP-BAND, A Hit With Heart's Ann Wilson

By Mike Falcon, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

For rock star Ann Wilson, controlling her weight had been a lifelong, often disheartening challenge. But now Heart's lead singer is thrilled by her weight loss, changing figure, and increased energy after undergoing a new laparoscopic surgical procedure called LAP-BAND Adjustable Gastric Banding System.

"I am pretty thrilled," says Wilson, who has lost 60 pounds. "It's a long, slow thrill."

Performed last January, Wilson had an adjustable band placed around the upper portion of her stomach. This creates a smaller gastric pouch that limits both the amount of food the stomach will hold and restricts food flow, allowing a person to more easily lose weight.

And losing weight had concerned Wilson since early childhood. "It started for me when I was very young," says Wilson, who as a third-grader weighed 100 pounds.

"As an adolescent, being heavy and being a girl has got to be one of the worst, because you get so excluded and so laughed about," she says. "Fashion is so important and being accepted is so important, and none of those things are available to you."

And for millions, no matter how hard they diet, or how often they try, the results are the same. "Every single diet has worked," says Wilson. "Temporarily, just for a minute."

"Atkins, Scarsdale, Cambridge, the cabbage soup diet, the fruit diet, juice fasting, rice, plain fasting," she recalls, rattling off her diet list. "Then there's eating only protein and no carbs, or eating only carbs and no protein. It was impossible. It just would not work."

But after the success of her LAP-BAND surgery, Wilson is passionate about helping others lose weight. The rocker is headlining Spotlight Health's campaign to increase public awareness about the LAP-BAND procedure. The initiative is sponsored by the LAP-BAND's manufacturer, Inamed Health.

Weight loss surgery

According to the bariatric surgeons who specialize in procedures that alter the structure and function of the digestive tract, Wilson's dieting experiences are typical for many who are morbidly obese - generally about 100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight.

 "It's not that these people haven't tried, and tried again and again," notes Brian Quebbemann, the bariatric surgeon who placed Wilson's LAP-BAND. "It's that a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, cultural norms, and family and individual behaviors combine to make successful dieting as many of us know it just about impossible for some others."

That's backed up by the Obesity Task Force of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and American College of Endocrinology, which found that although patients on diets, exercise programs, or medication are able to lose approximately 10% of their body weight, they tend to regain two-thirds of it within one year, and almost all of it within five years.

After decades of being overweight and carrying about 100 pounds more than Wilson wanted on her 5'7" frame, she finally opted for bariatric surgery.

Gastric bypasses are the most familiar of these surgeries. But after extensive discussions with Quebbemann, who regularly performs both operations, Wilson elected the LAP-BAND procedure.

"I generally don't recommend one procedure over the other," says Quebbemann. "Both are good for most patients, so I explain the aspects of each and how they work, and their differences. The patients generally know themselves quite well, so it's very important that they select - with expert input - what works best for them."

A gastric bypass divides the stomach by stapling to create a thumb-sized stomach pouch, and then connects the outlet of the pouch directly to the intestine, essentially "bypassing" the lower stomach, but preserving the flow of digestive juices.

While this restricts the volume and type of food consumed, sugars and fats, as well as liquids consumed with meals, cause discomfort, known as the "dumping syndrome." Consequently, patients are prompted to eat more protein.

Instead of stapling the stomach, a LAP-BAND procedure allows surgeons to place a hollow silicone band around it. This is done laparoscopically, using several tiny incisions instead of a single large one. The band can then be inflated or deflated to adjust the degree to which food consumption is restricted.

If necessary, the band can also be removed, restoring the stomach's original anatomy. FDA-approved in June 2001, clinical trials of this system report losses of excess body weight ranging from 53.6% to 88.5%.

Band aid

"Although we are guarded about every new procedure, the nice thing about this is that it provides an operation that reduces only the volume of food intake," says Walter J. Pories, president of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. "Also, because the band is adjustable and doesn't invade the stomach itself, it shows great promise." Pories is also a professor of surgery at East Carolina University, one of the trial sites for LAP-BAND approval.

"I like the idea of the LAP-BAND because it's a natural tool," says Wilson.  "I am not ready to change the inner landscape of my body. This is just something that's going to remind me when it's time to stop eating."

Because the intestinal tract is not bypassed or rerouted, the LAP-BAND procedure offers a faster operation and quicker recovery. "It's very simple," says Quebbemann. "And that's part of the beauty of it."

"But it's still a drastic step," says Wilson, who thoroughly investigated and discussed the procedure with her doctor before going forward.

"As with any manmade artificial device, there are things that can go wrong," says Quebbemann. "But generally, with the LAP-BAND, repairing or replacing it is a minor issue."

Consuming mass quantities of food is a bad idea at any time after the surgery - the food can be regurgitated. With a newly placed LAP-BAND, slippage could result. 

"Patient management is very important," advises Quebbemann. "We all have to keep in mind that a gastric band is solely a restrictive procedure that slows down the rate at which you eat."

"You really have to chew, and chew, and chew your food some more," says Wilson. Large pieces of food or food that has not been chewed well can stress the band.

"But you can eat anything," notes Wilson. "You can eat regular food.  It just has to be healthy food and you just have to eat it in small quantities and stop when you're full.  That's really all it is."

Wilson is excited about her progress and that she has the freedom to eat a wide variety of foods. However there is one food her waistline is happy to avoid even though it's easily consumed.

"Thankfully," says Wilson, "I'm not really into ice cream."

• LAP-BAND surgery from the International Laparoscopic Obesity Surgery Team

• Kimberly Williams says 'I do' to real Hollywood diet

• Fitness guru Denise Austin targets 40's flab

Spotlight Health is the leading creator of celebrity-featured health-issue awareness campaigns, connecting consumers with impassioned celebrities whose personal health battles can open eyes, dispel myths and change lives. Spotlight Health helps sufferers and caregivers meet the challenges of difficult health circumstances with understandable, in-depth medical information, compassionate support and the inspiration needed to make informed healthcare choices.

Click here for information about weight management.

Created: 12/21/2002  -  Mike Falcon & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

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