Is Weight Loss Surgery
for You?

Gaining weight - and trying to lose
that weight - is unfortunately a...

read more

Spanos Center:
A Sneak Peek

When it opens on the Mercy
General Hospital Campus...

read more

Know the Facts

If you are a new parent or about
to become a parent, one of the...

read more

A New Option for

Hysterectomy is the most common
gynecological surgery performed...

read more

Listen to Your Hands

Women are notorious for not
being proactive when it comes
to their health...

read more

Is Weight Loss Surgery for You?

Gaining weight - and trying to lose that weight - is unfortunately a difficult battle for many women, especially as we age. And while most of us struggle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, for some people the story on the scale is much more serious - even life-threatening. Being overweight can affect your health in a myriad of ways - causing a variety of health conditions that can take years off your life and dramatically reduce your everyday quality of life. If you have been obese for years and have not had success losing weight through traditional diet and exercise, then bariatric surgery may be an option for you.

The term bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures all with the goal of helping you lose weight and keep it off long-term. Typically a bariatric procedure involves making a surgical change to part of your digestive system that will limit how much food you can eat and, depending on the type of surgery, how many nutrients you can absorb. Bariatric surgery is a major, life-changing procedure that should not be taken lightly or jumped into too quickly. A bariatric procedure will forever change what types of foods you can eat and how much food you can eat. That being said the potential for dramatic improvements in your health are felt, by most patients, to offset the required changes in eating. Bariatric procedures do pose their own health risks and side effects that must be considered before determining if it is the right option for you.

There are several guidelines that are considered when determining whether someone qualifies for a bariatric procedure:

  • What is your Body Mass Index?
    Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation between your height and your weight that indicates the potential for increased health problems the higher the BMI.

  • Have your previous efforts to lose weight with diet and exercise been unsuccessful?
    Losing weight through a change of diet and an increase in activity is always the preferred method. But for some people, this method just isn't enough.

  • Is your body mass index 40 or higher?
    If so, that would be considered extremely obese and would be a consideration for bariatric surgery.

  • Is your body mass index between 35-39.9 and you also have at least one serious, weight-related health problem?
    These conditions could include type 2 diabetes; high blood pressure; or severe sleep apnea. If yes, then you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery.

In addition to meeting these standards, patients also need to meet other medical guidelines and undergo extensive screening prior to being qualified for bariatric surgery. A team of health professionals - typically including a doctor, dietitian, and other medical staff - will evaluate whether bariatric surgery is appropriate for you, given your unique health condition, age, eating habits, life style and amount of weight needing to be lost. Your bariatric team will want to determine if you fully understand the lifetime commitment you are making.

The physicians and staff associated with Dignity Health Sacramento's Bariatric Surgery Program are with their patients every step of the way, from the first consultation through pre-surgery education and post-surgery support. The program offers a multidisciplinary, team-centered approach to weight loss surgery which has been recognized by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. The programs at Methodist Hospital and Mercy San Juan Medical Center both have been named Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence.

For more information about the specific bariatric procedures offered by Dignity Health and to learn whether you would be a candidate for a bariatric procedure, visit our website.

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A New Option for Hysterectomies

Hysterectomy is the most common gynecological surgery performed in the US, with more than half a million women undergoing hysterectomy every year. A hysterectomy involves the surgical removal of all or part of a woman's uterus. It may also involve removal of the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and other surrounding structures.

Reasons for hysterectomy vary but can include cancer of the reproductive system; severe endometriosis; heavy menstrual bleeding; fibroid tumors; pelvic prolapse; or serious complications related to pregnancy. Because hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure that can affect a woman's hormonal balance for the rest of her life, it is normally recommended only as a last resort.

Fortunately, for women who are considering hysterectomy there are less invasive options available now which make recovery easier and quicker. By using robotic-assisted surgical systems, physicians are able to perform hysterectomies with greater dexterity, control and visibility due to high-definition 3-D optics. Robotic systems, like the daVinci Surgical System used at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, allows the surgeon to sit at a console in the operating room and monitor video screens while directing the system's robotic arms to perform precise maneuvers. The system translates the surgeon's natural hand, wrist and finger movements from the controls directly to the surgical instruments. This provides a greater range of motion and improved precision over other minimally invasive tools.

For the patient, these benefits translate to smaller incision, less blood loss, less pain and faster recovery. Patients who undergo robotic-assisted surgery are typically out of the hospital faster and back to their normal routine faster than if they underwent a traditional, open surgical procedure. They also have a decreased risk for complications and infections and typically experience less post-surgery pain.

Thanks to even greater improvements in technology, some robotic-assisted hysterectomies can now be performed using just one, small incision through a woman's navel. This is known as a single-site hysterectomy and it leaves a nearly invisible scar. The single incision is approximately two centimeters long. The surgeon uses the robotic system to remove the uterus through the belly button. Typically the procedure takes just 60 minutes.

The benefit of the single site procedure is both cosmetic - by dramatically minimizing scarring - and physical. Fewer incisions means less pain and blood loss for the patient. Like other robotic-assisted procedures, patients who undergo a single-site hysterectomy face a shorter hospital stay as well. Single-site patients are typically out of the hospital within a day and back to normal activities within two weeks, compared with a three day hospital stay and a six week recovery for traditional hysterectomy.

Dignity Health surgeons are among the few nationwide to offer the robotic-assisted single-site hysterectomy. For a referral to a Dignity Health specialist, please call 888.253.1704.

Learn more about Dignity Health?s robotic-assisted hysterectomy here.

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Spanos Center: A Sneak Peek

When it opens on the Mercy General Hospital Campus this month, the Alex G. Spanos Heart and Vascular Center will combine the very best of two worlds – a state of the art facility that is home to a world-renowned cardiac care team. The Spanos Center will be the central hub for the Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute, which performs more heart surgeries annually than any other team in California.

The 123,000 square foot Spanos Center will include a new main entrance for Mercy General Hospital as well as four cardiac surgery operating rooms, including a state-of-the-art hybrid operating suite; 20 cardiac surgery intensive care unit beds; 70 private medical/surgical patient rooms; cardiac outpatient prep/recovery unit; cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation; cardiopulmonary services area; and a new chapel.

Learn more about the Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center here.

Here is a sneak peek inside the new Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center...

Above: The lobby of the new building

Above: A nurses' station

Above: One of the 70 all private patient rooms

Above: The new hospital chapel

Above: A family waiting area

Above: The healing garden

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Listen to Your Hands

By Zahid Niazi, MD

Women are notorious for not being proactive when it comes to their health. This is true even when it comes to their hands. While that nagging ache or the recurring pins-and-needles may seem like no big deal, stop and consider what you would do if one of your hands lost function... Typing at work, cooking dinner for your family, working out at the gym... Many of your daily activities would suddenly become next to impossible. So if your hands are trying to tell you something – listen to them!

Among the hand conditions commonly experienced by girls and women experience are arthritis, triggering (also known as trigger finger), and fractures or cuts caused by injury or accident. However, the most common hand ailment among women is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This condition – which can affect women of any age – occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand that houses the median nerve and tendons. When the tendons are irritated, thickening or swelling can occur which causes the compression on the nerve that is associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause pain, weakness or numbness in the hand and/or wrist. The sensation can radiate up the arm. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often start gradually with burning, tingling, itching or numbness in the palm, thumb or index and middle fingers. People often report feeling their symptoms while they sleep or when they first wake up in the morning (this is because many people flex their wrists during sleep), while driving or while holding a phone to their ear. As symptoms progress, people might feel tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation more during the day. As the condition worsens, sufferers may notice decreased grip strength. Eventually, if left untreated the muscles at the base of the thumb may flatten due to atrophy.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the early stages is critical. The more damage that is done to nerves, the more intense the treatment will be, with longer recovery period and lowering degree of success. In the early stages, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, a wrist splint, or – in some cases – a low dose steroid injection. Success of treatment depends on the duration of compression and the severity of compression – a Neurologist can help determine if the compression is mild, moderate or severe.

If the condition worsens or is left untreated for a significant period of time, surgery may be necessary. Surgery to treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome involves an incision at the base of the thumb where the surgeon will release the ligament, relieving pressure on the nerve. Recovery from the surgery occurs in two stages: 1) Surgical recovery, which takes 2-3 weeks and involves recovering from the anesthesia and allowing the incision wound to heal; and 2) Nerve recovery, which can vary from a couple months to 6-12 months, depending on the damage to the nerve.

If Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is allowed to progress, untreated, for a couple years or more it can cause permanent nerve damage. Many women, in particular, will write off hand pain as a sign of aging or something that will go away on its own. However, as with all things related to our health, we need to pay attention to what our body is telling us. In the case of our hands, pain, numbness and tingling are all signs that something is wrong. Talk to your primary care doctor about any of these symptoms and pursue a diagnosis. You never realize how valuable your hands are until they no longer function properly!

Learn more about Dr. Niazi and Methodist Hospital's Orthopedic program here.

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Immunizations: Know the Facts

Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control

If you are a new parent or about to become a parent, one of the most important things you need to do is familiarize yourself with the immunizations your child will need. Keeping your child up to date on her immunizations is very important, not only for her health but for the health of everyone around her. Immunization gives you the power to protect your baby from 14 serious childhood diseases. As a parent, it is your job to sift through rumors and falsehoods and learn the facts.

Serious Disease Still Exists

Reducing and eliminating the diseases that vaccines prevent is one of the top achievements in the history of public health. But, because of this success, most young parents have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It's easy to think of these as diseases that only existed in the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can – and do – still get some of these diseases. In fact, when vaccination rates drop in a community, it's not uncommon to have an outbreak.

For example, preliminary data for 2012 show that more than 41,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States. During this time, 18 deaths have been reported – the majority of these deaths were in children younger than 3 months of age.

In addition, parents need to know that serious diseases that are no longer present in the US can still exist in other countries. All it takes is a plane ride for an infected person to bring that disease to your community.

US Vaccines are Safe and Effective

The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. Before a vaccine is approved and given to children, it is tested extensively. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are updated.

Although there may be some discomfort or tenderness at the injection site, this is minor compared to the serious complications that can result from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects from vaccines are very rare.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – a group of medical and public health experts. This schedule also is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The recommended childhood immunization schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable.

Vaccines Protect Everyone

Getting your child vaccinated helps protect others in your community – like your neighbor who has cancer and cannot get certain vaccines, or your best friend's newborn baby who is too young to be fully vaccinated. When everyone in a community who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated, it helps to prevent the spread of disease and can slow or stop an outbreak. Choosing to protect your child with vaccines is also a choice to help protect your family, friends, and neighbors, too.

For more reasons to vaccinate, talk with your child's doctor, call 800-CDC-INFO, or visit

If you are thinking about having a baby, mark your calendar for Baby Steps!

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