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University of Iowa News Release

April 8, 2003

UI Pioneer Of Obesity Surgery Publishes Article

A University of Iowa physician who is considered the "father of obesity surgery" has published an overview article on the development and future of surgical weight loss procedures. The article by Edward E. Mason, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor emeritus of surgery, in the April issue of The Archives of Surgery, provides a historical perspective on weight loss surgery techniques and outlines some innovations in surgical weight loss operations that could improve safety and success.

This issue of The Archives of Surgery is devoted to a review of current trends in the surgical treatment of morbid obesity and accompanies the April 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which focuses on obesity research. Findings published in this special issue of JAMA were scheduled to be highlighted at a news briefing, 9:45 a.m. (ET), April 8, in New York City.

Mason began performing gastric bypass surgery for weight reduction in 1966. One of the procedures most commonly used today to surgically treat obesity is a type of bypass procedure called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass where the stomach is reduced to a small pouch, which holds about one ounce of food, and the first two feet of the small intestine are bypassed.

Although bypass procedures like Roux-en-Y result in substantial weight loss, they also significantly affect the normal digestion process, producing adverse side effects. Bypassing the first part of the intestine interferes with normal absorption of critical nutrients and causes complications related to vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as anemia (iron deficiency) and metabolic bone disease (calcium and vitamin D deficiency).

These side effects led Mason to develop a simpler procedure known as vertical banded gastroplasty, which he began performing in 1980. Vertical banded gastroplasty reduces the region of the stomach that can initially receive food, but does not alter the rest of the digestive process.

"The future of weight loss surgery rests in greater use of simple stomach restriction procedures like vertical banded gastroplasty, which preserve the normal weight-maintenance mechanisms of the body," Mason said. "If simple restriction procedures did not produce sufficient weight loss, it was always my inclination to work with the patient to solve other problems affecting weight loss rather than going to a more radical procedure."

It is estimated that almost two thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. In addition, the incidence of obesity in children has doubled in the last 20 years with about 15 percent of children between ages 6 and 19 years old now affected. Obesity has been predicted to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Over 100 billion dollars are spent annually on treatment of health complications resulting from obesity.

Mason said that since the mid 1990s scientists have learned a great deal about the biochemical mechanisms that influence food intake and weight.

"I would like to see greater use of simple restriction procedures that do not rearrange these finely balanced mechanisms," Mason added.

In addition to pioneering new techniques for weight reduction surgery, Mason also established the American Society of Bariatric Surgery and the International Bariatric Surgery Registry. The registry, which Mason continues to direct, maintains a database of over 30,000 patients who have undergone surgery for weight loss.

Mason is retired from the UI faculty, but he continues to be active in teaching and publishing.

For more information about the International Bariatric Surgery Registry, visit

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, (319) 335-9917,

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: Photo of Dr. Mason is available. Contact Jennifer Brown

NOTES TO EDITORS: Dr. Mason can be reached at (319) 338-1026 or at For more information on the JAMA media briefing, call (319) 464-JAMA(5262) or

TELEVISION AND WEB BROADCAST NOTE: This week's JAMA video news release is on the association between TV watching and the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. For more information, call (312) 464-JAMA (5262).