Every day, I see news releases that promote a specific plastic or cosmetic surgeon and their specialization or new procedures that they offer. Very often, when I see a news release about, say, a physician whose latest battery of products and services includes fat transfer or infrared treatments, the wording in the release itself follows a tried-and-true pattern:
Dr. XYZ of Your Town USA wants to tell you he is now offering such-and-such new procedure
Such-and-such procedure is…
And then the release launches into a description of the new process or service. Very often, the processes described come straight out of ASPS or ASAPS literature or some well-known published description. Sometimes — perhaps many times — there is absolutely nothing new about the process being touted as new. Example in point:
The Gesigner Center, a health care service provider in Pennsylvania, has publshed a news release stating that it has begun to offer a bariatric surgery procedure and that procedure may also "cures diabetes."
"Diabetic patients who undergo bariatric surgery are often cured of diabetes following the procedure," said Christopher Still, D.O., director of the Geisinger Center for Nutrition and Weight Management. "This is an incredible development for patients, as diabetes is often a very challenging condition to manage."
A 2004 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that diabetes was completely resolved for over 76 percent of the 22,000 surveyed patients, and 86 percent of patients saw improvement in their diabetes. In an Annals of Surgery study, 83 percent of diabetic patients were cured after undergoing gastric bypass surgery, the primary bariatric procedure used at Geisinger Medical Center.
The procedure is most effective against type 2 diabetes. It hasn't proven to be a cure against type 1 diabetes, but it can improve a patient's condition, Dr. Still said. By resolving diabetes via surgery, patients are able to avoid medications and insulin injections.
"Many non-surgical treatments for diabetes can be ineffective, expensive and can be difficult for patients to maintain," Dr. Still said. "Bariatric surgery can completely resolve diabetes in one procedure, and sometimes it may be cheaper for a patient to undergo surgery instead of having to purchase medications continually over a number of years."
In order to ensure that patients stay diabetes-free following surgery, Dr. Still stressed that patients must dedicate themselves to maintaining their new body weight.
"Approximately 90 percent of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are obese, and obese people are nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes when compared to someone who is not obese," Dr. Still said. "As a result, patients who fail to maintain their new body weight after bariatric surgery run the risk of re-developing their diabetes."
While the correlation between bariatric surgery and resolving diabetes is clear, research is still being done to determine the reasons why bariatric surgery can act as a diabetes cure, Dr. Still said.
"Studies are being done to investigate a variety of potential explanations, including the way that fat can affect how the body responds to insulin, or how hormones are altered by the procedure," Dr. Still said. "There is no definitive conclusion, but it is clear that the surgery can act as a diabetes cure and can truly help patients enjoy a higher quality of life."
This release starts by saying that Type 2 diabetes can be cured by bariatric surgery, but concludes with a quote from a Gesinger representative doctor that nothing is conclusive. Let us review a smattering of the literature on the subject.
I purposefully chose mainstream news reports in order to show that without ever getting into the technical medical literature, one can find out immediately that although bariatric surgery (especially gastric bypass) may curb Type 2 diabetes in a majority of patients, the process and its results still need more study.
It's alright for Gesinger to promote its new processes and services, but what is the newsorthiness of the annoucement?
I have seen this same syndrome in many, many news reports from all manner of physicians around the country. When you are approving copy for marketing your practice, make sure the facts are correct. While it is tempting to talk about year's-old procedures and "new techniques" that are now being offered by you, make sure your copywriter is accurate about the techniques and their results, as well as claims that may or may not be provable.