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Complex Bariatric Procedure Now Being Performed Laparoscopically at Temple

Marisa Rickard's story is similar to millions of Americans. Thin and athletic as a child, she says her weight crept up on her as an adult. Contributing factors included a sedentary job and two arthritic knees that kept her from exercising. Before she knew it, Rickard found herself tipping the scales at 315 pounds. She knew she had to take action.

"I have a family history of obesity and a number of my relatives have had weight-loss surgery, including my mother," says the 35-year-old Rickard. "She had a type of bariatric surgery called the duodenal switch and she's kept the weight off ever since."

Rickard knew about the excellent reputation enjoyed by Temple's Bariatric Surgery Program, including its designation as a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery. In March of this year she made an appointment to see the program's director, John Meilahn, MD.

After undergoing the standard battery of tests, Dr. Meilahn deemed Rickard an ideal candidate for the duodenal switch surgery. The twist – she would be one of the first patients at Temple to have the procedure performed laparoscopically.

"The duodenal switch works in two ways: through restriction and malabsorption," says Dr. Meilahn. "During the procedure, we significantly reduce the size of a patient"s stomach – that’s the restriction. We also rearrange the small intestine so that food and a person's digestive juices interact for only a short amount of time. This reduces the amount of calories the body absorbs – the malabsorption part of the equation."

"Performing the procedure laparoscopically makes surgery easier for the patient, speeds recovery time and reduces the risk of infection and blood loss."

Dr. Meilahn operated on Rickard this summer, and within 10 days she was already down 11 pounds. She says her goal is 165 pounds, a weight that will allow her to be more active with her two children.

"We have season passes to Great Adventure, but for the last few years I haven't been able to go on half the rides because of my size," says Rickard. "I can't wait to do things that were impossible for me before."

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Temple physician, call 1-800-TEMPLE-MED (1-800-836-7536).

Date Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012