Dr. Tracy Pitt is a weight loss surgeon JourneyLite Surgery Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He trained at the Cleveland Clinic and has dedicated his career to helping patients lose weight and improve their health. In the not-so-distant past this meant big operations, big incisions, long hospital stays, and potentially high risk. Now, however, there are many new developments in the field of weight loss procedures that could be real game-changers in the field.
“Many of my patients are interested in losing weight but they don’t want to have surgery” Pitt says. “Diets have failed over and over in the past and they need a more powerful option to succeed.” For decades, gastric bypass was the gold standard, and still is in many circles. But there are two camps who are looking for non-surgical options: those who don’t have enough weight to lose to justify full-on surgery, and those who qualify for surgery but their fears of being cut on outweigh the benefits of bariatric surgery.
Dr. Pitt says “The risk of weight loss surgery has really come way down in the last decade. It’s now no more risky than gallbladder surgery. But the more options we have in our arsenal, the more effective we can be at treating the disease of obesity.” He feels that obesity treatments might be more successful if patients were treated at a lower BMI, intervening earlier rather than waiting for the scale to climb high enough to require gastric bypass.
Dr. Pitt has always been interested in minimally invasive techniques, so much that his entire fellowship was dedicated to minimally invasive surgery. So it was only natural for him to take an interest in weight loss procedures that could be done without surgery altogether. “First we had the gastric balloon” says Pitt, “but many patients are looking to a more permanent tool,” referring to the fact that gastric balloons must be removed after they’ve been in for 6 months. When a new procedure called the Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty, or ESG, came on the horizon, Dr. Pitt scheduled himself for a training course almost immediately.
The ESG procedure uses an endoscopic “sewing machine” called the Overstitch (Apollo Endosurgery) with which Dr. Pitt has extensive experience already. Sutures are placed inside the patients stomach to reduce the gastric volume, while they are under anesthesia. One study has shown that after patients have the ESG, they require 59% fewer calories to achieve maximum fullness. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, early results have been promising. Patients can typically have this procedure done on an outpatient basis and be back to work in about a week.
Dr. Pitt performed the first ESG in the state of Ohio in August of 2017 at JourneyLite, and he already has dozens more patients who are scheduled for consultations. “The field of weight loss surgery is always evolving towards less invasive procedures” says Dr. Pitt, “and this new option can offer patients a much more durable tool to control their weight than any of the non-surgical methods we have seen in the past.” His first patient, a 35-year-old female with a BMI around 31, wanted to lose weight for two reasons: to improve her health and prevent future disease such as diabetes, and to look and feel her best for her wedding 6 months down the road. “This is the perfect kind of patient for an ESG” says Pitt, “one with a lower BMI who is motivated to make lasting changes in both diet and lifestyle.”
Dr. Pitt is optomistic about the future of ESG, but acknowledges that long-term studies need to be done before doctors can truly know how this will fit into the treatment of obesity. “Until we have those results” Pitt says, “we have to select the best patients who are most likely to be successful with an ESG and are aware of the fact that this is a new procedure that is not yet time-tested.”
For more information on Dr. Tracy Pitt, the ESG, and JourneyLite, visit JourneyLite.com
(Note: Patients who have already had bariatric surgery are not candidates for the procedure. Also, ESG is not covered by insurance, but may be eligible for HSA/FLEX healthcare accounts.)