June 25, 2017

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Dr. Ryan Lussenden Shares His Passion for Weight Loss Surgery and its Many Benefits

Dr. Lussenden at RiceThe process of bariatric surgery begins far before a patient ever enters the operating room. With an emphasis on improving overall health, patients spend time with their surgeons, dietitians, and other team members to create a lifestyle centered on weight loss. These routines will accompany the physical changes occurring, helping the patient reach their weight loss goals. This process is what captivated ACMC surgeon, Dr. Ryan Lussenden, about the field of bariatric surgery and helped him decide it was where he belonged.

Unlike many surgical specialties, bariatrics allows surgeons to become actively involved in the patient’s pre-and post-operative care. Dr. Lussenden got to experience this firsthand early in his career at Mayo Clinic and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. “During my residency I did a lot of bariatric cases, both bypasses and sleeves,” Dr. Lussenden explained. “The process can be a very happy time for the patient and that was the main drive for my career choice.”

Dr. Lussenden begins working with patients a few months prior to surgery, educating and providing tools that will help them be more successful. His top-priority is working with the patient to develop practical fitness habits. “I like to speak to my patients about the importance of exercise both before and after surgery,” Dr. Lussenden said. “When you are exercising you have a healthier overall lifestyle. It’s always difficult to get started but once you do the benefits are boundless.”

This also gives Dr. Lussenden the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with his patients, learning more about their individual struggles and hesitations. This has broadened his understanding of the diversity of weight control issues and what can be done to help combat them.  “I try to figure out ways for patients to incorporate activity and make simple adjustments to their diet that will work for them personally,” he explained. “With every patient I encounter, I’m learning new things, so it’s fun to be a part of that process.”

Dr. Lussenden encourages his patients to focus on healthy eating and a workout routine as they prepare for surgery. “Weight loss surgery isn’t a quick fix or the easy way out, it’s the first step to losing weight,” he said. “After the surgery, you really only have a year and a half to lose most of the weight so it’s important to follow the nutritionist and dietitian guidelines.”
In addition to the patient aspect, Dr. Lussenden is also fascinated by the laparoscopic capabilities that the surgery
 provides. “With your stomach located under your ribs, it’s tough to access so it makes it difficult to perform an open surgery,” he explained. “It’s nice that we can do it laparoscopically, making it easier for the surgeon and the patient.”

Dr. Lussenden with robotics equipmentThe laparoscopic process is done through five to six small incisions, less than one inch in size, on this abdomen of the patient. This noninvasive style of surgery allows for the patients to be mobile following surgery which reduces the risk of blood clots.

As for overall pain, Dr. Lussenden assures his patients that it’s very limited considering the massive change being done. “It feels like you went to the gym and did a lot of crunches the day before,” he said. “Your abdomen will be sore but that will subside within a few days.”

Although the ability to perform bariatric surgery laparoscopically has made it safer for patients, the ability to qualify for surgery becomes increasingly more difficult. This is due to insurance companies becoming more stringent with the money spent on bariatric treatment. “Insurance companies are cutting back as much as possible because health care is expensive,” Dr. Lussenden explained. “No one wants to foot the bill even though it can save money in the long run.”

This is seen through the benefits of bariatric surgery, in addition to weight loss. Most patients will find that they aren’t sick as frequently and are able to reduce the amount of medications they take. This is also seen through the reduction of Type II diabetes in obese patients, a trend that is catching the attention of bariatric specialists and patients alike. “It’s very common for obese patients to get diabetes over time,” Dr. Lussenden explained.  “Bariatric surgery prevents people from developing diabetes. It can also rid people of diabetes who have already been diagnosed and can help people who normally require insulin to stop the injections all together.”

The reversal of diabetes is due to a change in the hormones being produced in the stomach after a patient undergoes surgery. This is an exciting update for Type II diabetes patients, who previously had no “cure” for diabetes outside of controlling the disease. Even Dr. Lussenden admits that researchers are still discovering the details to this process.  “There is so much more that we don’t even understand as to why it’s working so well for diabetes,” he explained. “But there is a big opportunity for a lot of patients to do well in their life with weight loss and diabetes.”

This, among other reasons, is why Dr. Lussenden so strongly believes in the bariatric surgery process. With most patients losing 70 to 80 percent of their excess body weight, surgery is a win-win for people struggling with weight loss. But Dr. Lussenden stresses the importance of trying traditional weight loss methods before exploring surgical options. “Diet and exercise are key to weight loss so you really want to give that your best effort,” he said. “So when you do decide to explore surgery you know you’ve tried everything.”  He explained how starting with diet and exercise is also important so you know what will and won’t work after you undergo surgery.  “Weight loss surgery jump starts the process and makes it easier,” Dr. Lussenden said. “You will be more aware of triggers and will make healthier food choices overall.”

Dr. Lussenden joined ACMC in 2016 and has seen major growth in his Willmar practice and has begun offering outreach to local communities including: Marshall, Benson, and Morris. Growing up in Morris, Dr. Lussenden is happy to be close to home, providing a unique service to rural communities. To better education potential patients and ease hesitation, Dr. Lussenden provides informational meetings to allow people to ask questions and decide if bariatric surgery is right for them.

Since relocating from Florida, he appreciates being able to connect with his patients and have a better understanding of what’s important to them. “It has been so much more fun to work in a setting where I really get to know the people and their families,” Dr. Lussenden said. “I get to explore a whole new avenue to someone’s life.”