Local doc explains NJ gov's Lap-Band weight-loss surgery

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The revelation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who once referred to himself as "the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen," secretly underwent weight-loss surgery has many people wondering what options might be available to them.

Phoenix bariatric specialist Dr. Terry Simpson sat down with 3TV's Scott Pasmore Wednesday to explain Christie's procedure -- the Lap-Band®.

"It's the least invasive surgery," Simpson explained. "When he went in on a Saturday … he left that same morning with a Lap-Band® installed."

There's no stabling and no part of the stomach or intestines is removed. The Lap-Band® procedure takes about 20 minutes, Simpson said. It's generally done on an outpatient basis.

The Lap-Band® is exactly what is sounds like. An inflatable band is placed around the top of the stomach. The doctor tightens the band, decreasing the stomach's capacity thereby restricting how much a person can eat at a time.

The band also increases the time it takes for food to make its way through the digestive tract. That means, patients not only feels full sooner, they also feel full longer.

"The whole idea behind this is so that you can eat a smaller portion of food and not be hungry later," Simpson said. "Really, you start shedding the pounds right away because you're eating less."

That weight loss tends to be gradual but steady, and the band can be adjusted as needed.

"A weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week in the first year after the operation is common. This translates to 50 to 100 pounds in the first year, although patients can lose more," according to Simpson's website, AZLapBand.com.

While it sounds simple, Simpson says easy is relative.

"Surgery just provides the tool [for weight loss]," he explains on his website.

Patients still have to do the work. That means implementing and maintaining both a healthy diet and an exercise program.

"It does require discipline," he told Pasmore. "All weight-loss surgeries require you to change your habits. You eat better. You cook better."

Unlike other weight-loss surgeries, like gastric bypass, the gastric sleeve and the duodenal switch, the Lap-Band® procedure is reversible. The band can be removed relatively easily.