A Ferryhill man has become the first patient in the North East to have a pioneering new weight loss operation at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Patients in County Durham and Darlington are amongst the first in the country to benefit from the new procedure.

The procedure especially helps those who would benefit significantly from weight loss surgery but for whom the traditional surgical approach is too high risk due to pre-existing health conditions.

Professor Anjan Dhar, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Endoscopist said: "Endoscopic sutured gastroplasty (ESG) is performed under general anaesthetic, using an endoscope (a small camera inserted into the patient’s stomach via their mouth).

"Attached to the camera is a tiny stitching device - a fine needle and permanent sutures.  Using the camera to see what they are doing the endoscopist stitches the stomach from the inside to shrink it to less than half of its normal capacity, and reducing its food capacity. 

"Whilst the normal stomach is usually able to expand following food, after this procedure expansion is usually restricted, meaning the patient will feel incredibly full after a small meal. 

"At County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust our specialists in  bariatric, or weight loss, surgery, and endoscopy work as a  team to perform this procedure – giving fresh hope to patients, which is enormously satisfying."

The Northern Echo: Team carrying out the operation

Consultant Bariatric Surgeon, Mr Akeil Samier, addsed: "Some people who have become very overweight are keen to undergo surgery, recognising that their obesity is causing or adding to other serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or stroke.  Unfortunately, those health conditions can also make surgery by traditional techniques which involve an incision, too risky. This new endoscopic procedure can be life changing.   

"Over 25 per cent of the adult population in England has a body mass index (BMI) which classifies them as obese.   A further 37 per cent are classed as being overweight – that’s an incredible 62 per cent of the population who are not a healthy weight. 

"Being overweight carries huge health risks including being more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer, heart problems or stroke.  General quality of health also tends to be poorer in these patients.

"Initially, we support people to lose weight through developing a better diet and increasing exercise, but this doesn’t work for everyone.

"There are various weight loss surgeries, which we usually perform only after other options have not been successful.  They are performed using either keyhole or the more traditional incision techniques.

"But being overweight makes surgery more risky and potentially more complicated.  For overweight patients with some other medical conditions, the risk can become too high."

Professor Dhar adds, "This new procedure doesn’t involve an incision so is much less risky.  It brings the patient’s weight down gradually, from a BMI of around 40 to 45 to around 30.  In the first 12 months we anticipate a weight loss of around 12 per cent. 

"There’s evidence that this can be so transformational that around 30 per cent of people using diabetes medication are able to come off it. There is also evidence of a reduced risk of heart problems or stroke and of overall health improvement."

The Northern Echo: Adam Crathorne

Adam Crathorne was the first person in the region to have endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty – with amazing results.  Adam, 34, from Ferryhill, said: "Due to a pre-existing health condition, a number of years ago I had to have a stoma fitted.  Unfortunately, like many people during lockdown, I gained a lot of weight – going up to over 27 stone.

"In 2022, the plan was to reverse the stoma which I very much wanted, however my weight made this far too risky.  I tried the traditional weight loss clubs but with little success, so I was referred to Mr Samier, to discuss whether bariatric surgery would be an option. 

"Existing abdominal scars from previous surgery meant performing further surgery this way would be too risky. This was really difficult to hear – I thought I would not be able to have weight loss surgery and would have to keep the stoma indefinitely.   When Mr Samier suggested the endoscopic procedure it felt like a real lifeline, a chance to lose weight so I could have the stoma reversed.

"I have two young children and you have to be very careful how you move about with a stoma, which meant I wasn’t able to do as much with them as I would like.  The weight I’d gained made this even harder.

"The procedure was performed at Darlington Memorial Hospital under general anaesthetic.  The stitches reducing the capacity of my stomach were understandably painful so I stayed in hospital for a couple of days. 

"Initially, I could only have liquids, moving to soups and a soft diet. If it weren’t for the stoma I would now be able to eat a much wider selection of food and I’m hopeful that day will come.  In the first year I lost over six stone – down to 21 stone. 

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"The weight loss has continued and will continue, at a slower rate – small portions are here to stay and my approach to eating and food has changed, for the better.  I’m hoping to have the stoma reversed in the near future. 

"Aside from meaning I can hopefully have the surgery I need, the weight loss itself has made a big difference to my life – to how I feel and what I can do.  My children have noticed and love that I’m becoming more agile. 

"Friends and family and, of course, my wife, Elizabeth, have noticed the weight loss and tell me I look a great deal better for it.   My bank balance has certainly noticed – I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes!

"I can’t thank Mr Samier and all his colleagues enough.  They have the tenacity to find out about new procedures then learn how to perform them so that patients like me can have a new lease of life and fresh hope for the future."