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Weight-loss surgery program receives national certification

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Apr. 10, 2007)   —   Weight-loss surgery in Greenville has received a stamp of approval from a national organization.

The Surgical Review Corporation and the American Society for Bariatric Surgery have named the program and two surgeons at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and Southern Surgical Associates, a local private surgical practice, as a bariatric surgery center of excellence for bariatric surgery.

"This is a big step and one that the hospital and university should be proud of," said Dr. William Chapman, ECU associate professor of surgery and PCMH chief of bariatric surgery.

According to SRC, benefits of the bariatric surgery centers of excellence program include improved patient safety and advocacy and the opportunity to improve bariatric surgery practice through comparing treatment plans and research. Certification also means the government insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid will reimburse surgeons and hospitals for bariatric surgery.

Among the items SRC looks at before granting certification is the organization's commitment to quality, including whether surgeons have proper training and experience in bariatric surgery and whether the program supports a safe and effective program. These items include proper operating room procedures and equipment, whether patient toilets are strong and secure enough to handle morbidly obese patients, and whether doorframes are large enough for them and their beds to move through.

Nearly 25 percent of the people in the 41 eastern North Carolina counties are obese, according to the ECU Center for Health Services Research and Development. In the rest of the state and nation, 21 percent of the population is obese. ECU classifies obese as having a body mass index of 30 or greater.

The most prominent weight-loss surgery performed at PCMH is the Greenville gastric bypass. Gastric-bypass surgery is an operation that reduces the size of the stomach and reroutes the small intestine with the primary goal of helping morbidly obese people -- typically those more than 100 pounds over their ideal body weight -- lose weight and improve their health.

As a byproduct of the surgery, Dr. Walter Pories, the ECU professor of surgery who developed the Greenville bypass, has observed that four out of five patients who had type 2 diabetes before the surgery have a full and lasting remission of their diabetes within a few days of undergoing the surgery.

Pories is also chairman of the board of SRC, a non-profit organization thatconducts and administers the ASBS Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence program. The ASBS awards the Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence designation.

In 2003, ECU was one of six centers nationwide designated by the National Institutes of Health to work together to develop a deeper understanding of obesity and standards for its surgical treatment. ECU received $1.3 million from the NIH to fund its part of the investigation into one of America's critical health problems. ECU also has a $500,000 contract with Johnson & Johnson to study why the surgery causes diabetes to go into remission.


Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481