Are Laparascopic Gastric Bypass Surgeries Dangerous?

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

A woman dies at a Boston hospital, two-days after undergoing laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery.

There's an investigation underway, to see if the surgery led to her death. And that's having an impact on people considering the procedure here in Evansville.

The hospital in Boston has temporarily suspended all laparascopic gastric bypass surgeries, while the case is under investigation.

Some feel that's leading to unnecessary panic, about a procedure that already has its share of critics.

By age 37, Ann Marie Simonelli weighed 350 pounds.

She thought having laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital would change her life.

Instead, it ended it.

Since then, Vicki Woods has been getting some worried phone calls and emails.

The New Harmony woman runs the Evansville Surgical Weight Loss support group, and is a gastric bypass patient herself, having successfully lost 140 pounds.

Woods says, "I tell them, this is one incident in thousands, and just like any other surgery - I mean this is major surgery - and there is always a chance for complications."

During the surgery, a surgeon uses a row of staples to seal off most of the stomach, then re-attaches the small intestine.

Doctors who performed Simonelli's surgery laparascopically say, the misfiring of a staple gun may be to blame for her death.

Her family is devastated.

Her brother Anthony Simonelli says, "I just want people to know how dangerous this can be, and you know, don't do it. I think it's a real bad idea."

Vicki Woods says she can certainly understand his pain, but at the same time, she worries what kind of effect this kind of publicity will have on people considering the surgery.

She says there's already a stigma attached to the procedure, as if it were the easy way out of obesity. She says there's nothing easy about it with the decision to have the surgery, the pain involved, the struggle to keep the weight off.

Woods says, "In the end, I know many people who've had the surgery and I know not one of them who says that they regret it, who's life isn't better now than it was before."

Including her own.

None of the doctors at St. Mary's Bariatric Center wanted to talk on camera, but one did release a statement saying that all of their patients are informed thoroughly of complications, and that every surgical procedure has risks.

So gastric bypass surgeries will continue here in Evansville. It's important to point out that they are not performed laparascopically here like the one in Boston.

They're done with a large incision.

The Evansville Surgical Weight Loss Support Group meets every third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 P.M., Deaconess Hospital Health Science Building, Edgar Street Room 104A.
For more information, contact Vicki Woods at (812) 682-3466 or bobandvickiwoods@aol.com.