by Adrienne Broaddus
He weighed 480 pounds. His liver wasn’t working, and his kidneys were failing, too. But because a Twin Cities man was obese, he says doctors denied putting him on a list for a liver transplant that would save his life. Scott St. Michel, 58, was diagnosed with NASH. It is what some call the worse type of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease… Four years ago, doctors told him to prepare to die. But the Mayo Clinic offered him a second chance. The Mayo Clinic’s revolutionary approach to liver transplant surgeries for morbidly obese patients saved his life. Transplant surgeon Dr. Julie Heimbach has helped pioneer a new approach to liver transplants that offers hope for obese patients. Surgeons perform two surgeries at once – the liver transplant and a weight-loss procedure called a “sleeve gastrectomy,” which reduces the size of the stomach by about 80 percent.
Context: Sleeve gastrectomy, also called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, is a surgical weight-loss procedure. This procedure is typically performed laparoscopically, which involves inserting small instruments through multiple small incisions in the upper abdomen. During sleeve gastrectomy, about 80 percent of the stomach is removed, leaving a tube-shaped stomach about the size and shape of a banana. You can read more about the procedure here and view a video here. Julie Heimbach, M.D, is a Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon and the surgical director of Liver Transplantation at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, with a primary focus in adult and pediatric liver transplantation and living-donor surgery.