A Nigerian, London based expert consultant in weight-loss Laparoscopic Surgery, Dr Abuchi Okaro has strongly advised Nigerians to opt for the best available medical facilities in the country instead of rushing abroad for weight-loss surgery, if they desire optimal treatment.
Speaking at a media chat in Lagos recently at the conclusion of a gastric by-pass surgical operation with his colleague, Dr. Marco Adamo, he explained that while the laparoscopic single anastomsis gastric by-pass was the first he had performed in Nigeria, he had performed close to 250 Lap gastric sleeves and gastric balloon procedures in Nigeria since 2011 with patients achieving their objectives of weight loss and control of diabetes and high blood pressure control.
Dr. Okaro revealed that patients still need to be reminded that each surgery, including the one that tackles excessive weight which is his area of expertise, is a journey. “The surgery does not cure the disease; it is a tool and part of the cure” he explained further. “The patient will constantly need to interact with other team members or professionals like the nutritionist who understand types of food, local dietary culture to advice and monitor patients to ensure safe weight loss and health management. This is major obstacle for those patients who choose to go abroad for treatment as follow up can be difficult and patchy.
His partner Dr Marco Adamo, an Italian, corroborating Okaro’s views used the scenario in London, his base, to point out why it might not be easy for most medical ‘tourist’ locations to meet the needs of most patients. His words: “For instance, in London we have more than 20 different types of dietians to satisfy various cultures, religions and beliefs as patients manage their health in the recovery process after any metabolic surgery. This is because we have peculiar concerns for various races and cultures even within the city. It might not be the same in most of other hospitals and cities”.
Speaking on the level of growth of weight reduction surgery in Nigeria, Okaro, who started to do specific weight loss Laparoscopic surgery in Lagos in 2011, explained that there are some challenges, mostly in the area of awareness. “A lot of education is still needed for the average Nigerian to know that there benefits to such surgery available in the medical world that Nigerians can also use basically to reduce weight. Secondly, and more importantly, the need for the awareness that this surgery is available and accessible here in Nigeria. But we still have to note that some Nigerians know about metabolic surgery and they have been travelling abroad in good numbers for this procedure”.
Commenting on the edge laparoscopic surgery provides Okaro said, “Patients do not really need large cuts during the surgery and that means less pain after the procedure, which most people prefer. Another advantage is that with less pain the patient get better faster and some can go home even on the day of the surgery. Within the system, the advantage is that the surgery is always projected on the screen so you get a bigger image for what is done and everyone in the theatre can follow and learn more about what is done through the video system”.
Asked why this practice with so many advantages has not been deployed widely in most teaching or general hospitals in Nigeria, Okaro identified skills deficiency and cost of equipment as key obstacles. His words: “A lot of expertise and training is required in this area and we have experienced huge deficiencies lately in the area of medical skill development and capacity within our country. Another factor is the cost of equipment: the monitors and other tools require a huge investment. These two key factors and a few others have impeded the more widespread use of advanced laparoscopic gastrointestinal surgery in Nigeria”.
Dr Abuchi Okaro specializes in upper gastrointestinal Oncology and Bariatric (weight loss) surgery. He was trained in the UK and in Tokyo, Japan and he is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and holds a Masters in Surgery Degree from the University of London. He has widely published scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented lectures at national and international meetings.
He runs the Weight loss and Metabolic Surgery Clinics, Lagos, Nigeria; the first of its kind – a surgical weight management unit dedicated to delivering evidence based and safe weight loss advice and treatments in Lagos, the Heart of Nigeria. He believes that part of his calling is to bring world-class experience to solve the big health problems we have in Nigeria.
You too can book an appointment with Dr Abuchi Okaro MS FRCS FWACS to start your journey here.