CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills: Expert Care in an Atmosphere of Trust

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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At CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills, experts use bariatric surgery to remedy — and even prevent — serious health issues.

CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills, in partnership with UT Medicine, offers a wraparound program designed to help patients lose weight through state-of-the-art bariatric procedures while providing thorough education before surgery and ongoing support after the procedure.

“Our program is in its third year,” says Richard Peterson, MD, MPH, Medical Director of CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute ­– Westover Hills, Associate Professor of Surgery at University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio and President of the Texas Association for Bariatric Surgery. “Most people who come to see me have been battling obesity their entire lives.”

A dedicated struggle against obesity — sometimes for decades — results in well-educated patients who may be extremely frustrated. They are often knowledgeable consumers who are wary of exaggerated claims or vague promises. Therefore, patient education about bariatric surgery has to meet a high standard. At CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills, a team of professionals exceeds this standard. Patients first attend free informative seminars. Then, they schedule a consultation with a physician to determine which procedure would best suit their goals and health needs. Finally, detailed pre-surgical education explains what to expect during and after the procedure.

“Our patients have done their research,” Dr. Peterson says. “While the general public may regard bariatric surgery as a cosmetic procedure, for people who undergo or perform it, it’s about health, not outward appearance. The outward changes patients undergo are simply visible indications of their greater well-being.”

Matching Patients and Procedures

The physician consultation is an essential first step in determining the appropriate surgical procedure. CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills offers gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y bypass procedures. Each procedure meets specific patient needs, including weight-loss goals, health considerations or revision of a previous bariatric surgery. Dr. Peterson discusses every available option with his patients, helping them make the best decision for their particular situation.

Sylvia Grady: A Healing Surgery

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Sylvia Grady, 43, an Assistant Director at St. Mary’s University business office, was watching her health problems mount. Despite exercising up to two hours a day, six days a week, she had been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“No matter how hard I worked out, when I looked at the scale, I was still obese,” Grady says. “Finally, I learned I would have to take diabetes medication. At that point, I started looking to other paths besides diet and exercise to improve my health. I was blessed to find Dr. Peterson to perform my weight-loss surgery.”

Together with Dr. Peterson, she selected a gastric bypass procedure and had surgery in December. She is extremely satisfied with the results. Her diabetes, high blood pressure and other health issues have all resolved.

Today, Grady is busy as a full-time employee and student. Her desire for life-long learning is aligned with the providers at CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills, who answer her questions and educate her about healthy food choices.

“I underwent this procedure for health reasons,” she says. “It has been great to accomplish my goals. I feel better, I sleep better at night and I wake up in a much better mood every morning.”

For patients who are not extremely obese and have few health complications, gastric banding is a favored procedure. Banding is a highly safe surgery, resulting in the lowest mortality rates of any bariatric procedure — though, now that almost all bariatric surgeries are performed in a minimally invasive fashion, all options are quite safe, with mortality rates of less than 1 percent after three years.

For other patients, a sleeve gastrectomy is the best choice. This procedure, also effective and safe, typically results in similar weight loss to bypass procedures and greater weight loss than adjustable banding procedures, according to a Cochrane Database Systematic Review. Because the stomach is not bypassed, this surgery may be appropriate for patients who have very specific absorption needs, such as a highly nuanced medication regime, Dr. Peterson says.

Christopher Brown: Building a Healthy Future

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Obese since childhood, Christopher Brown, 30, struggled to lose weight. He tried dieting and medical weight loss and visited numerous bariatric surgery clinics. However, he never found a provider he trusted.

“Then I attended Dr. Peterson’s seminar, and I could tell he was honest,” Brown says. “He discussed complications in an upfront manner.”

Brown made an appointment at CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills, and underwent a gastric bypass procedure on December 16. He found the bariatric team and hospital staff extremely warm and informative.

Although Brown did not have obesity-related health problems, he weighed 296 pounds before surgery. His weight was affecting another condition, a neuromuscular disease of the joints. Now, he has lost 110 pounds and feels much better.

“It completely changed my lifestyle,” he says. “I think about ‘activation energy’ required to get moving — it’s much easier to get up and move now. I can play with my children, ages 2 and 5. They can’t get away with things like they could before.”

When patients have obesity-related health problems as well as significant weight-loss needs, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass may be the preferred option. In one study of more than 2,000 women undergoing banding or bypass procedures, bypass patients lost about a third of their body weight after three years, compared to banding patients, who lost about 15 percent of their body weight.

Bypass surgeries also result in extensive metabolic benefits. More than 80 percent of patients who undergo gastric bypass experience full or partial resolution of their diabetes. Three-quarters of patients experience resolution or improvement of sleep apnea. High blood pressure and high cholesterol rates often improve or resolve, as well. Gastric bypass may also be used as a revision procedure for previous surgeries that have resulted in complications or failure to lose weight.

At CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills, many bariatric surgeries are performed laparoscopically through tiny incisions made in the abdominal wall. Minimally invasive weight-loss surgeries, like other minimally invasive procedures, may result in less post-operative pain and complications and quicker return to activity.

A Preventive Measure

Typically, bariatric surgery is suggested for patients who have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or a BMI of 35 or higher if weight-related health problems are present. Patients must demonstrate many years of weight loss attempts for most insurance companies to cover the surgery, which leads to the perception that bariatric procedures are “last ditch” efforts. However, Dr. Peterson is part of a trend of physicians who recommend weight-loss surgery as a preventive measure, before health problems develop.

“In some cases, we perform bariatric surgery to address present health problems, but in other cases, it is a preventive procedure, aimed at creating an excellent quality of life that they can enjoy for a long time,” Dr. Peterson says.

“Our message to referring physicians is, ‘Don’t wait.’ They should not wait until the patient is so sick and his or her quality of life is so poor that we are trying to repair the aftermath of obesity. Instead, we should aim for preserving a high quality of life.”

Often, Dr. Peterson says, patients tell him they wish they had undergone bariatric procedures sooner.

“Time is our one limitation,” he says. “It is critical not to waste what time we have.”

Lifetime Relationships

A bariatric procedure at CHRISTUS Weight Loss Institute – Westover Hills initiates an ongoing series of partnerships — between the patient and the staff who continue to advise and monitor him or her, and between the bariatric surgeon and the patient’s personal physician.

Regular support group meetings, as well as sustained follow-up with specialists such as a nutritionist, keep patients on the road toward their weight-loss goals. At the peer-to-peer level, Dr. Peterson keeps patients’ physicians advised about what to expect after surgery, and turns to them for updates about patients’ health.

“I work hard to ensure collegial relationships with providers,” he says. “It is important to them to know how their patients are doing with their weight-loss endeavors, and it is critical to me to receive their feedback. We keep that dialogue open to ensure patients receive the best care possible.”


Dr. Peterson performs bariatric surgery at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Westover Hills. To refer a patient for a consultation or free seminar, visit www.whyweightSA.org or call 210-438-8446.