CLEVELAND — Dr. Donald Brooks is a physician who's practiced emergency medicine for 22 years. A doctor who is constantly on his feet during some long shifts.
"I noticed my clothes were starting to feel tight and family members were saying, 'I think you're gaining weight,'" said Dr. Brooks.
Brooks, who practices in Oklahoma, said it really hit home when a friend and former colleague didn't recognize him.
"Even physicians, sometimes we think we're immune to some of the things and we're not, and you caught up with me."
So he got connected with Dr. Roberto Simons-Linares at the Cleveland Clinic to talk about his options.
"We approach every patient individually to really meet all their needs and what exactly they want to achieve," said Dr. Simons-Linares.
After months of meetings virtually, the pair decided on a new, minimally invasive outpatient procedure called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty. The procedure involves an endoscopist inserting an endoscope with a suturing device through the mouth to reach the stomach. The endoscopist then places sutures in the stomach to decrease the stomach volume and make it smaller.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, this procedure is a treatment option for people with overweight (a body mass index of 30 or greater), and diet/exercise haven't worked as a treatment and the patients do not qualify or are not interested in bariatric surgery. The procedure is minimally invasive and performed as an outpatient.
Brooks had a BMI of 34.
"I liked the fact on the ESG and that it was minimally invasive. It was basically endoscopic suturing technique and it was reversible if things didn't work out for me," Brooks said. "I like the fact that I could reverse it. The other procedures were not reversible."
For six weeks following the procedure, the patient has to maintain a strict diet.
"We really try to make sure the patient understands that it's a tool in lifestyle modifications, right? Diet, exercise and psychological support are important throughout," said Dr. Simons-Linares.
Since the surgery in September, Brooks has lost more than 50 pounds and has been able to get off some medications.
Interestingly enough though, his body mass index was not high enough for him to qualify for insurance covering the procedure, so he paid for it out of pocket. Now, the ER doctor is advocating for BMI qualification to be lowered for this procedure-- in order to help others before the weight gets too dangerous.
"Hopefully, in the future, they will change their requirements for reimbursement for the procedure. But I can tell the patients this: the food that you don't eat probably over five years will totally pay for this procedure," Brooks said.