Friday, May 28, 2010 2:13 PM

Bariatric revision patient free from stomach pain

The severe stomach pain plaguing Shela Mangasarian kept her from living the active lifestyle she loved. Six years ago, she dropped 118 pounds with the help of Dr. Kelvin Higa, vascular surgeon and director of Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital’s bariatric program. He performed Mangasarian’s bariatric (weight loss) surgery in 2006.

Dr. Higa helped Mangasarian get to the bottom of her discomfort. “I wouldn’t go to anyone else,” Mangasarian said.

HealthGrades, a national health care ratings organization, ranked Fresno Heart & Surgical third in the state for its patient outcomes and for the second year in a row gave it a 5-star rating, plus a Bariatric Surgery Excellence Award.

Dr. Higa performed minimally invasive exploratory surgery to find out what was causing the pain in Mangasarian’s stomach. Using a special camera and surgical instruments, Dr. Higa checked all 25 feet of her small bowel and found a hiatal hernia. That is when a portion of the stomach protrudes up into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm. He repaired the hernia laparoscopically. It took her about a month to recover, but now Mangasarian is back to her normal activities.

“I’m doing very well,” Mangasarian said. “I haven’t gotten sick since the [bariatric] revision.”

She said it was important to her to go back to Dr. Higa. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”

While more and more insurance plans are insisting on a Center of Excellence rating for weight-loss surgery, patients should also be looking for 5-star ratings, asserts HealthGrades’ just-released 5th Annual Bariatric Trends Study. In analyzing surgery outcomes from 19 states, HealthGrades found bariatric surgery patients at top-rated hospitals had, on average, a 67% lower chance of complications and spent a half day less in the hospital compared to patients at low-rated hospitals.