Monday, June 04, 2007

TV show, "Big Surgery" is a big informercial

Possibly hitting bottom with biased shows on bariatric surgery, (weight loss surgery) is the new show on Discovery channel TLC entitled "BIG SURGERY".

This show pretends to be informational about the gastric bypass (only the gastric bypass is featured which is interesting because that's the OLDEST procedure still being done and carries the most risks). It is so biased in portraying the surgery like "a walk in the park" with EVERYONE getting slim and healthy from it that even several gastric bypass patients I know who are happy with their surgeries, are taking issue with it.

In the show, Father and Son bariatric surgeons, Drs Davis and Davis, are featured with some of their patients.

The older Dr Davis has assured the audience several times how "safe" the gastric bypass is. "I've never lost a patient from this surgery," he boosts in the opening episode.

This of course, is totally double talk. And here's the way he comes to that conclusion with a surgery which GUARANTEES a 2 percent death rate within the first month and another 2 percent death rate within the first year (under the best of conditions).

The only thing he "counts" as being death FROM the surgery is a death from a leak. And most folks who get a leak do not die from it if the surgeon is right on it and whisks them back to surgery to fix it and/or quickly inserts a feeding tube to bypass it until it heals which we can assume Drs Davis and Davis careful enough to do. (by leak we mean when the stapler misfires or somehow staples rip, allowing the contents of the stomach and/or intestines to spread into the abdominal cavity and causing serious infection, coma and disability and possible death).

What Dr Davis does NOT count as a death FROM THE GASTRIC BYPASS are things like throwing a blood clot (obesity is the cause of death there, as most M.E.'s will declare), or heart attack (obesity can be blamed there also) or a myriad of other things which of course, ARE connected to the surgery but since they occasionally happen to other patients, bariatric surgeons who wish to mislead, can make statements like Dr's Davis and Davis.

Dr Davis also told the TV audience that the gastric bypass prolongs the lifespan of the clinically obese people who have it.

How did he come up with the three studies, he says proves this? He didn't tell us but I can guess:

1. Study one: the study in which they computed the number of years the gastric bypass would add to a patient's life. They computed it would add 3 years. This was not an observational study of any kind - simply a projection analysis. (
Finlayson-Birkmeyer study presented at the Owen H. Wangersteen Surgical Forum 2002 at the 2002 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in San Francisco)

2. Study two: the Dr David Flum study which compared 62,000 healthy fat people who got gastric bypass surgery at one hospital, to 2000 seriously ill fat people hospitalized for other reasons. He found that the gastric bypass patients had a 4.5 times greater chance of outliving the seriously ill fat people. Of course, had he compared the 62,000 healthy fat people hospitalized for gastric bypass, to 2000 seriously ill slim people hospitalized for other reasons, he would have found that gastric bypass patients also lived considerably longer than seriously ill slim people. A no brainer but many people did not hear how his results were found, just the results which can be very misleading. As an aside, Dr Flum's study also found that 2 percent of gastric bypass patients died within 30 days of surgery and another 2-4 percent died within the first year after gastric bypass. (report delivered to the College of surgeons in Oct 21, 2003.[Study title: The Impact of Bariatric Surgery on Patient Survival: A Population-Based Study])

I don't know what the 3rd study he quotes is, but you get the big picture. It's all about SPIN or what Orwell called "newspeak".

And the bottom line is, I would bet, after that first show, Davis and Davis's phones rang off the hook for prospective patients.

I went to the Discovery website and read the comments about the show. Many people wrote that they were not sure about weight loss surgery until they saw the show and now they know they are going to get the surgery. Which is exactly what this show is all about.

Those who research this surgery on the internet will hear another story.... like the many fat people I know who turned down the offer of weight loss surgery 20 years ago (despite the fact many were told they would die in 5 years without it). The fat people are alive and well today while their fat friends who had the bariatric procedures are ALL no longer alive.

The daily vomiting (some of it involuntary), the restrictions on many foods because they do not "go down" well, the additional procedures like bowel obstructions suffered by as high as 40 percent of gastric bypass patients - these will undoubtedly never see the light on this TV show, BIG SURGERY. Neither will the iron infusions (at least 50 percent of patients will require this for the rest of their lives and this procedure is done in the oncology section of the hospital so it's not all that trivial), the vitamin B12 shots which most patients will need (and will suffer greatly if they do not get), the protein drinks which they need to drink - none of this will be shown on BIG SURGERY either.

Finally, the fact that a full 30 percent of gastric bypass patients regain all their weight (or more) and 70 percent of patients keep SOME weight off (but only 50 percent of the excess weight) and only FIVE To SEVEN percent of patients can keep all the weight off and a portion of these are slim because they cannot eat - this will never be shown on BIG SURGERY either. (ref: Hebrew University study- 1992)

And because of this show, people will line up to hastily make a decision which may ruin their health for the rest of their lives. For the little "surprise" most people are never told about is that NONE of these bariatric procedures are reversible. And take-downs (where they undo as much as they can) only keep you alive - they do NOT cure the illness you may have gotten during the time you have had the surgery.

>>>You should be aware that as nutritional science advances, we are discovering that there is more to food and health than vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, carbohydrate and fat. Deficiencies in these nutrients resulted in rapid health effects that made them easy to identify. Nutrition science is now moving into new areas involving other more obscure chemicals in plants that have health effects that are more subtle and long term. This makes them harder to find, and their benefits difficult to document Most health studies are not done long enough to discover all outcomes. As these new substances are located and understood it will probably emerge that our stomachs have to be a given size just to take them all in. Because of this surgery, you will not be able to do so. Biologically, we have the G.I. tract we have for a reason. Changing it is purely experimental.<<<
(Kaiser Permanante Release Form for Gastric bypass and Duodenal switch)

>>>>Gastric surgery for weight loss causes nutritional deficiency in nearly 100% of individuals who have it done. The most common deficiencies are Vitamin B12, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Carotene (beta-carotene and other carotene vitamins) and potassium. In the beginning patients will faithfully get their vitamin B12 shots and take their vitamins. After a while they flatter themselves that they are healthy and just like anyone else. They discontinue getting checkups. This is risky. A recent follow-up study done on gastric bypass patients showed that even 10 years later there were severe nutritional deficiencies. You are NEVER normal. NEVER.<<<<<

(Kaiser Permanante Release form for gastric bypass and duodenal switch/BPD)


violet_yoshi said...

I'm not surprised. TLC is well known for their anti-obesity propaganda.

bluebutterfly110 said...

You are insulting Dr. Davis' studies when the one that YOU are relying on is from 1992? What a joke. And you say HE is guilty of spinning.

SueW said...

Bluebutterfly110, I did quote the Hebrew University study from 1992 however, newer studies like the long term study (Obesity Surgery, Vol. 11 No. 4 August 2001, pp 464-468) and the latest results from the Swedish Obesity Study published in 2004 have shown similar results. For example in the Swedish Obesity study report published in the NEJM in Dec 23, 2004, the 541 ten year post ops available for followup, had only kept off an average of 16 percent of their original weight. And only 35 percent of the diabetics had remained "disease free". Indeed earlier this year when the ASBS endorsed a 'through the mouth' procedure called "STOMAPHYX" to make the gastric bypass patient's pouch smaller, THEY admitted a 30 percent failure rate (i.e. failure to keep off the lost weight) with gastric bypass patients. In a radiologists' study, they looked at 72 gastric bypass
patients and found by CT scanning, that 41 of the 72 patients i.e. 56 percent) had some 62 abnormalities" in their digestive tract. The "abnormalities" included leaks, hernia, spleen and kidney damage, hematoma, bowel obstruction and distended excluded stomach.
(Diagnostic Imaging - September 2, 2004)

As for Dr Davis's studies I am not aware of any of these which have been published. Dr Davis' comment of "never losing a patient" must be understood as "never losing a patient from a leak" which is believable considering that they carefully check their new post ops and at any question, quickly bring them back into surgery. However, there is NO SURGEON who has never lost a patient because even with gall bladder surgery where the risks are far lower than with gastric bypass surgery, a certain percentage of patients die on the table. A surgeon cannot control if, for example, a patient gets a pulmonary thrombosis and dies on the table. Typically, those deaths when they happen during or immediately after gastric bypass (GBS) surgery are generally declared to be from "obesity" rather than from the GBS which would enable the surgeon to "not count" that as a death from GBS. However, it still remains true that had that particular patient NOT had GBS, they would not have died at that moment. Finally, I would invite anyone questioning whether the long term results are not as rosey as some would like to believe, to please consider joining and reading the following yahoo group:

This group which has a membership of over 2200, is a place where gastric bypass patients who are not having a good run with the surgery do speak out. I have often seen the question asked there "How can they still DO that surgery (gastric bypass) when it has ruined so many lives and so many have died from it?" And the answer to that question is, as you have expressed in your comment, the public has generally NOT been informed about the less rosey long term results of gastric bypass surgery.