Twelve-year-old Alexis Shapiro is in critical but stable condition today after undergoing sleeve gastrectomy surgery to correct a rare condition called hypothalamic obesity. While the doctors are saying that the operation went as well as could be expected, the doctors did not perform the procedure they had originally planned because of some unexpected facts that came to light only after Shaprio was in the operating room. At the time of the surgery, Shapiro weighed 200 pounds.
In 2011 Shapiro had surgery to remove a tumor in her brain. The tumor was removed, but in the process her pituitary gland was damaged as well as the part of her brain which helps to regulate hunger, and she began to gain weight uncontrollably. Further complicating Shaprio’s weight problem is the fact that one of the effects of hypothalamic obesity is that the body produces less adrenaline. With less adrenaline, Shapiro had less energy with which to exercise.
To help counter the weight gain, gastric bypass surgery was recommended and yesterday, that was the operation the Shapiro family was expecting Alexis to have. But when doctors began the procedure, they realize that, due to her obesity, Shapiro’s liver had enlarged to the point where it would have been dangerous to perform the planned procedure. Instead, doctors opted to do what is called a sleeve gastrectomy on Shapiro, which resulted in the loss of around 75 percent of her stomach.
The doctors had also planned to remove a part of Shapiro’s vegas nerve as a way to help her curb her weight gain, but this was also not done due to the size of her liver. Vagotomy is a procedure originally designed to help patients with a problem of over production of stomach acid. While generally no longer used for that, it was found to be effective in helping to curb weight loss by reducing the perception of hunger.
Shapiro will probably be in the hospital for the next several weeks. During that time, doctors will monitor her recovery and her weight loss and then try to determine if they should go ahead with the gastric bypass surgery and the vegas nerve surgery.
Shapiro’s mother and father have said that they are fine with the doctor’s last-minute decision and that they feel this is the best for Alexis.
The sleeve gastrectomy procedure performed on Alexis Shaprio was done at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. The procedure involves cutting away a majority of the stomach as a way to curb appetite and to fight morbid obesity. Gastric by-pass surgery differs from the sleeve procedure in that it divides the stomach into two sections and re-attaches the small intestines to both of the newly created sections of the stomach.
Shapiro first gained media attention last year when it was learned that her health insurance company was unwilling to pay for her doctor-recommended operation. Shapiro was gaining about two pounds per week and was suffering from side effects such as kidney infection and diabetes and so required the sleeve gastrectomy to be performed.
By Dan Reyes