Women warned against cut-price gastric surgery

Weight-loss operations can be a third of the price overseas – but up to 10 per cent of patients go on to develop complications

Leading British surgeons have warned against what they regard as a worrying trend of women going abroad for weight-loss surgery. Medical procedures such as gastric band operations have become an increasingly popular option in the UK: many people are keen to follow the lead of celebrities such as Fern Britton and Vanessa Feltz.

Thousands of British women are now being enticed to attend private clinics abroad because of the bargain prices they offer. In countries such as Syria, gastric bands are being fitted for as little as £2,000, compared to £6,500 or £7,000 in the UK.

Many people are also going overseas because they are unable to get such surgery on the national health. The average NHS waiting list for weight-loss operations is around 18 months and, with budgets being slashed, primary care trusts are increasingly reluctant to provide funding for such procedures.

A report released in 2011 warned doctors who fit gastric bands that they need to be alert for potential complications that may arise years later. The study detailed the case of a 49-year-old British woman who two years after her surgery had to seek hospital treatment when she developed night sweats and a persistent cough. An X-ray revealed the woman had a cavity in her chest. After ruling out tuberculosis, the doctors suspected the woman's problems were caused by the gastric band.

"We see travel agencies brokering surgery for their clients with surgeons they have never met," said Catherine Foss, executive director of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "The patients have no assurance that their surgeon is properly trained or qualified to perform the procedure they will undergo."

Simon Monkhouse, a surgical registrar at the Royal United Hospital, Bath, said: "Post-operative care [for operations performed abroad] is often patchy or non-existent, which increases the risk of complications. There are some procedures performed in parts of Europe that are no longer performed in the UK – for example, vertical banded gastroplasty."

Ahmed R Ahmed, a top weight-loss surgeon at the private Cromwell Hospital in west London run by Bupa, believes as many as 10 per cent of the women who go overseas are returning with serious complications.

"It appears that some patients who pay privately abroad are not getting high-quality surgery and certainly they're not getting any follow-up," he said. "The key thing is the follow-up. If you don't have that, patients can get malnourished and deficient in vitamins. There is also a strong chance their weight might not go down as much as it should.

The scenario described by Mr Ahmed mirrors the situation that Janet, 33, found herself in just over a year ago. Her nightmare began in August 2010 when she decided to have a gastric band fitted by a company she found on the internet. The company flies patients out to eastern Europe. But within days of having the operation, Janet started to feel unwell and her condition deteriorated when she returned home to Surrey.

"I felt absolutely terrible," she said. "Every time I ate it would come back, and there were some days when I couldn't even keep water down."

Janet was flown back to eastern Europe in December 2010. The surgeons there then told her that the port, which is the opening under the skin through which liquid is funnelled to tighten the gastric band, was in the wrong place. They re-operated and moved the port, but also cautioned Janet that her body might be rejecting the band.

Janet was referred to the NHS and, after a string of operations, doctors told her they had discovered her stomach lining had been cut, which is what caused her infection. "The contents of my stomach were leaking into the rest of my body," she said.

Janet's gastric band was removed completely in April last year and after she finally started on the road to recovery. She has since married and gone back to teaching.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker