Spectrum Offers Bariatric Surgery

August 22, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health has opened a new specialty clinic at its Blodgett Campus in East Grand Rapids to treat the most severe cases of obesity.

The 29-bed bariatric unit, housed in the former birthing unit at the Blodgett Campus, includes nutrition and behavioral counseling and, by combining necessary staff, equipment and facilities in one location, allows Spectrum Health to better meet a growing demand for gastric bypass surgery that restricts a person’s food and caloric intake, enabling them to lose significant weight.

Spectrum now performs 25 bariatric surgeries a week and expects that to grow to 30 surgeries during the coming year. The health system has 600 patients on a waiting list for the surgery, which requires an extensive pre-screening process to determine whether a morbidly obese person is eligible for the procedure.

Given what former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher has described as an epidemic in America with obesity, the demand for bariatric surgery is expected to grow. Insurance companies are increasingly approving the procedure for morbidly obese subscribers, many of whom have obese-related health problems.

“Bariatric surgery is increasingly becoming an important option for seriously overweight patients,” said Spectrum Health Hospitals President Matt Van Vranken. “This program allows us to provide the facilities and environment that will deliver high-quality care to these patients at one location.”

Only those persons deemed morbidly obese and who have been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise qualify for bariatric surgery. Criteria includes having a body mass index of more than 40, which equates to about 100 pounds overweight for men and 80 pounds for women.

In addition to Spectrum Health, Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon offers gastric bypass surgery, as well as support services such as pre- and post-operative support groups. Mercy General began offering the procedure earlier this year.

Mercy General also offers a medical weight management program for patients who do not qualify for the surgery. 

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