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Mayo Clinic stops stomach stapling

The most common type of stomach stapling operation to help dangerously obese people lose weight does not work well, according to a Mayo Clinic study, and the clinic has dropped the procedure.

Stomach stapling, performed on about 500,000 patients in the United States each year, is designed to limit the amount of food the stomach can hold, but, in a followup of 70 Mayo Clinic patients, doctors found that three years after these operations, called vertical banded gastroplasty, only 38 percent had maintained a weight loss of at least half their excess body weight.

Surgeons called these results "less than ideal" considering the expense and risks of surgery.

The average weight of the patients was about 300 pounds, and they all suffered from serious health-related problems because of their weight, including hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and sleep apnea, which is the cessation of breathing during sleep.

In followups to surgery, patients were found to have changed their diet to high-calorie liquid or semisolid foods that are more readily tolerated in unlimited quantities. Instead of gorging on steak, potatoes and baked goods, the patients turned to ice cream, milkshakes and soda.