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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

‘Lethal’ botox injections for weight-loss being offered in UAE clinics

Botox injections in to the stomach that are putting patients’ lives at risk are being offered by doctors in the UAE despite it not being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

ABU DHABI // Surgeons are warning of a new weight-loss procedure that could be lethal and yet continues to be administered in private clinics.

Botox injections in to the stomach that are putting patients’ lives at risk are being offered by doctors in the UAE despite it not being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The injections, which cost about Dh15,000 a session, are made into the wall of the stomach and this supposedly makes the patients feel more full by reducing the stomach motility. Effects wear off after six months.

Dr Abdelrahman Nimeri, director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Seha’s Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), said that it was very important for people to avoid looking for a “quick fix” when wanting to loose weight.

“Weight-loss surgery is a life-saving decision,” he said, adding that it was important that any procedure undertaken is FDA-approved and done in a multidiciplanary setting.

Botox injections could lead to severe complications such as a perforated stomach, or even death.

The BMI is the main referral centre for complications that have resulted because of metabolic and bariatric surgeries. Twenty per cent of their procedures are corrective surgery.

Since its inception in 2009, the institute has successfully treated about 70 patients who have come to their emergency rooms with severe complications because of weight-loss procedures done in other hospitals. “These patients had to be hospitalised and some took a couple of days to weeks to recover,” Dr Nimeri said.

A further 150 were seen at the BMI’s outpatient clinics.

Many of the complications were leakages or bowel blockages, mainly caused by the “technique” the surgeon used.

One patient who had botox injections developed gastric necrosis.

“His stomach basically was rotting and had holes in it,” Dr Patrick Noel, head of Bariatric Surgery at the American Surgecentre in Abu Dhabi.

“Botox injections is a fraud and lethal. It is not a safe or effective procedure to lose weight.”

Dr Nimeri said that one of the main complications of weight-loss surgery was nausea and vomiting. He blames that on the lack of “education”, which is essential for bariatric surgery, where weight-loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or through removal of a portion of the stomach.

All of the complications were successfully resolved, he said, because patients came to the hospital in time, however, “many of the complications of bariatric surgery could be minimised by proper education and having a multidisciplinary team”.

Surgery is considered high-risk because of the multiple medical problems patients may have.

“Mainly patients who undergo bariatric surgery, by definition, are morbidly obese, so the weight constitutes a risk factor,” Dr Nimeri said. “However, if the surgery is done with a multi-disciplinary programme and all these conditions are evaluated before surgery, the risks could be greatly reduced.”

The institute has performed 1,350 bariatric surgeries since 2009.

“The only procedures we offer have to be FDA-approved and have more than five years of outcomes approved by international organisations such as the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery or the International Federation for Surgery of Obesity,” Dr Nimeri said.

“Patients should ensure that they undergo procedures that are FDA approved if it involves drugs such as gastric balloons or endoscopic botox, in addition for other procedures.”

In both 2013 and 2014 about 4,000 bariatric surgeries were performed across the UAE. In 2015, the number was a little over 5,000.

Complications mainly occur because surgeons do not have enough expertise or the hospital is not well equipped, doctors have said.

Another issue is patients regaining the weight. Up to 20 per cent of patients regain the weight after surgery, Dr Noel said.

“In more than 90 per cent of these cases, the patient has regained the weight because they have gone back to their unhealthy eating habits. In 10 per cent of the cases it is an anatomical problem,” he said.

Half of the 150 patients seen at the outpatient clinics had complained of weight regain.

“Patients need to know that health does not equal weight,” said Dr Nimeri.

“Health equals many things, such as exercise, regular check-ups, healthy diet and other factors.”

Dr Iman Eddbali, coordinator of the Bariatric department at the American Surgecentre, said: “Before going for any weight-loss surgery one needs to ask professionals and not rely on testimonials of people online without a medical background.”

salnuwais@thenational.ae

Updated: February 9, 2017 04:00 AM

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