Governor Chris Christie’s Secret Weight Loss Surgery

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told the New York Post that he secretly underwent lap band surgery in February of this year.

The Governor, who has been no stranger to barbs about his weight, felt the time was finally right to do something about it:

I’ve struggled with this issue for 20 years. For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them.

Christie had investigated the different surgical options, and felt that gastric bypass surgery was “too risky”. He also had several conversation with NY Jets Coach Rex Ryan, who underwent the lap band procedure in 2010.  Ryan is said to have lost 100 pounds after the procedure.

Christie used the same surgeon as Ryan, Dr. George Fielding, head of NYU Medical Center’s Weight Management Program. In order to keep the procedure a secret, Christie had Dr. Fielding visit him at his home, instead of at the medical center.

Despite the speculation, Christie says that his procedure was not motivated by thoughts of a presidential bid in 2016, saying “It’s so much more important than that.”

Sources close to the Governor report that he has already lost about 40 pounds.

How does Lap-Band Surgery Work?

lap-bandAdjustable Gastric Band (AGB) (sometimes called lap-band surgery)works primarily by decreasing food intake. Food intake is limited by placing a small bracelet-like band around the top of the stomach to produce a small pouch about the size of a thumb.  This is only about one ounce, whereas a normal stomach can hold about 3 pints of food.

The band is made of a special rubber (silastic rubber). The inside of the band has an inflatable balloon. This allows the band to be adjusted. The band is connected to an access port that is under the skin on your belly. The band can be tightened by placing a needle into the port and filling the balloon (band) with water.

The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia, so the patient is asleep and unable to feel pain.

The surgery is done laparoscopically– meaning using a small camera and instruments inserted into several small incisions in the abdomen (belly). It typically takes between 30-60 minutes and patients are often able to return home later the same day.

After the surgery, the diet will consist of liquids or mashed-up foods for 2-3 weeks. Soft foods are slowly added to the diet, followed by regular foods. Most patients are on a regular diet by 6 weeks post-op. Because of the small amount of food injested, patients often must take prescribed vitamins and minerals.

What are the Possible Complications of the Surgery?

Some side effects may occur around the time of the surgery. These include bleeding, infection, leaks from the site where the intestines are sewn together, diarrhea, and blood clots in the legs that can move to the lungs and heart.

Other possible complications include:

  •     Gastric band erodes through the stomach (if this happens, it must be removed)
  •     Gastric band may slip partly out of place
  •     Gastritis (inflamed stomach lining), heartburn, or stomach ulcers
  •     Infection in the port, which may need antibiotics or surgery
  •     Injury to your stomach, intestines, or other organs during surgery
  •     Scarring inside your belly, which could lead to a blockage in your bowel
  •     Inability to reach the access port to tighten or loosen the band  (would need minor surgery to fix this problem)
  •     Vomiting from eating more than your stomach pouch can hold

Later side effects include nutrients being poorly absorbed, especially in patients who do not take their prescribed vitamins and minerals. If patients do not address this problem promptly, diseases may occur along with permanent damage to the nervous system. These diseases include pellagra (caused by lack of vitamin B3—niacin), beri beri (caused by lack of vitamin B1—thiamine) and kwashiorkor (caused by lack of protein).

Weight-loss surgery may increase your risk for gallstones.

Other late problems include strictures (narrowing of the sites where the intestine is joined) and hernias (part of an organ bulging through a weak area of muscle).

Incisional Hernia

Incisional Hernia

Two kinds of hernias may occur after a patient has bariatric surgery. An incisional hernia is a weakness that sticks out from the abdominal wall’s connective tissue and may cause a blockage in the bowel.

Internal Hernia

Internal Hernia

An internal hernia occurs when the small bowel is displaced into pockets in the lining of the abdomen. These pockets occur when the intestines are sewn together. Internal hernias are thought to be more dangerous than incisional ones and need prompt attention to avoid serious problems.

Some patients may also require emotional support to help them through the changes in body image and personal relationships that occur after the surgery.

 

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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