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Bariatric surgeon enjoys patients' transformations
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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Bariatric surgeon Dr. David Aanestad at his office on the Genesis east campus in Davenport.
DAVENPORT -- Bariatric surgery can transform the lives of people who struggle with severe obesity. That's why bariatric surgeon Dr. David Aanestad finds his work "inspirational." He sees first-hand the positive changes his job makes in the lives of his patients.

"To me that's the gratifying thing, to see that improvement," he said. "It's unique; there's nothing else that can be done in surgery to me that's like this."

Dr. Aanestad is from Iowa City and has worked with the bariatric team at Genesis Health Systems in Davenport since 2006.

"Our center for bariatric surgery is a complete multi-disciplinary clinic that cares for people with morbid obesity and their co-morbid conditions," he said. People who suffer from obesity often develop related illnesses, which is what Dr. Aanestad means by co-morbid conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertension. Those related conditions generally improve in patients treated by the bariatric team at Genesis.

Three types of surgery are offered to help patients lose weight. The "gold standard," Dr. Aanestad said, is gastric bypass surgery, after which patients typically lose 70 percent of their excess weight. The surgery also helps fight diabetes.

"In our experience, 85 percent of patients who go under a bypass with diabetes have a remission of their diabetes," Dr. Aanestad said. He added that 100 percent see at least an improvement in their diabetes condition. Those who have gastric band surgery see lower weight loss and also improvements in co-morbid conditions.

Dr. Aanestad and his team sit down with patients to discuss which type of surgery is best for their individual case.

"We have patients come in, and we help decide the best option," he said.

Bariatric surgery is a "long-term commitment" and that means that Dr. Aanestad sees his patients regularly after surgery.

"It's really a unique thing," he said. "In the first year after surgery, they see us every three months or even more."

The team keeps track of a patient's progress and even will continue to see patients after 12 months, although less frequently.

Bariatric surgery has been around for about 50 years. Dr. Edward Mason, a former University of Iowa physician, was considered a pioneer of gastric bypass surgery. He began performing the surgery to help patients lose weight in the 1960s. The surgery has become more common in the past decade.

"It's been around a long time, but on this scale, probably the last 10 to 15 years there's been tremendous growth," said. Dr. Aanestad.

In addition to performing surgery, the bariatric team at Genesis provides psychological support and help to get their patients eating healthily and exercising regularly.

Tammy Shipman had gastric bypass surgery at Genesis in November 2006, when she weighed 338 pounds. She recorded her progress on Genesis's website and two-and-a-half years later her weight was down to 170 pounds.

"Before, if I worked all day, I was pooped and ready to go home and collapse. I actually have energy left at the end of the day," she wrote. "I can walk and walk and walk without getting short of breath."

Dr. Aanestad remembers another patient who was able to fulfill a dream of going hiking and camping for the first time after having surgery for obesity problems.

"That was inspiring," he said. "Really, you can just see drastic improvements in people."

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate in both Illinois and Iowa was estimated to be 28 percent in 2010. In 1990, the rate for the two states was about 15 percent.

Since 1980, according to the CDC, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.

Obesity is determined by using weight and height to calculate body mass index, or BMI. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. As an example, the CDC would define an adult who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 203 pounds as obese.

The Genesis Center for Weight Management in Davenport is the region's only Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, as recognized by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Genesis has three bariatric surgeons and also employs a psychologist and dietitian to help its bariatric patients.

Supporting the dream

Who: Bariatric surgeon Dr. David Aanestad

Quote: "To me that's the gratifying thing, to see that improvement. ... Really, you can just see drastic improvements in people."

Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, Oct. 21, the 294th day of 2014. There are 71 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The weather is discouraging for our great Democratic rally tomorrow, but never mind that. Let our Rock Island people show they can make a big procession themselves, rain or shine.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Apparatus arrived for drilling an artesian well on the premises of George Warner's Atlantic Brewery.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The German army continued its attacks on the allies line near the Belgian coast.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Zachert northwest of Buffalo Prairie, burned to the ground.
1964 -- 50 years ago: WVIK-FM, noncommercial educational radio station at Augustana College, will return to the air tomorrow. The station operates at a power of 10 watts at 90.9 megacycles on the frequency modulation band. The station is operated with a staff of 92 students.
1989 -- 25 years ago: An avenue of lights, 13 Christmas trees strung with more than 44,000 sparkling lights, will expand the Festival of Trees beyond the walls of RiverCenter in downtown Davenport in mid-November.

(More History)